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Rain Hampers Rescue Efforts in NY

President Bush will visit a jittery city trying to recover a sense of normalcy three days after the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history. The official death toll has reached 184, but more than 4,700 people are reported missing.

Rain is expected throughout the day. The weather has turned dust to muck and made footing treacherous.

“There’s no question they’re hampered by it,” said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “At the same time, they’re going on, because there is still a strong hope that we’ll be able to recover people.”

Travel in and out of the city is still limited. Authorities reopened the area’s three airports and the Staten Island ferry, which serves the southern tip of Manhattan, will resume service Monday, Giuliani said. He also announced that the Wall Street financial district would be back in business Monday.

While rescue efforts continue, police have had to respond to a series bomb threats. Frightened people fled several office buildings, stores and public areas yesterday as rumors of bomb scares spread across midtown Manhattan.

The mayor warned that anyone making false bomb threats would face arrest.

He also urged the media to double-check any reports that might raise false hopes or kindle unwarranted fears. Yesterday there were reports of firefighters found alive and arrests at local airports that later turned out to be untrue.

Rescue workers and media in the area surrounding “the pile” of twisted steel and debris that remains of the twin towers reported that other buildings were on the verge of collapse, but Giuliani said inspections Thursday found the buildings still standing were structurally sound.

Tens of thousands of residents in lower Manhattan remain homeless. Investigators have turned five-square-mile area into a giant crime scene, including the TriBeCa and Chinatown neighborhoods. Some residents were allowed to retrieve a few belongings before being hustled out because of safety concerns and power outages.

Lines outside the armory on 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, where relatives can file missing-persons reports, snaked around the block yesterday, but were relatively short today.

President Bush is scheduled to visit lower Manhattan this afternoon. He will be able to tell them that financial relief is on the way. This afternoon, Congress approved a $40 billion emergency package to aid attack victims and seek those behind the strikes on New York and Washington.

At least $20 billion was earmarked for disaster relief efforts.

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