It is not yet officially known how the patients died.
Steven Campanini, a spokesman for hospital owner Tenet Healthcare Corp., tells the Associated Press that some of the patients died before Katrina hit on Aug. 31, and none of the fatalities resulted from lack of food, water or electricity to power medical equipment.
Dave Goodson, an assistant administrator at Memorial Medical Center, tells AP that patients died while waiting to be evacuated after Katrina struck, as temperatures inside the hospital reached 106 degrees.
The discovery of the corpses, which raised Louisiana's official death toll to nearly 280, came as President Bush got his first up-close look at the destruction in New Orleans and the embattled director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, resigned. R. David Paulison, a top agency official with firefighting experience, quickly replaced him.
"My impression of New Orleans is this: That there is a recovery on the way," Bush said after riding through New Orleans in a truck with the governor and mayor.
Some recovery reportedly is becoming visible. Nearly two-thirds of southeastern Louisiana's water treatment plants are up and running, and 41 of New Orleans' 174 permanent pumps are operational. Officials expect the still half-flooded city to be completely drained by Oct. 8.
Sgt. John Zeller, a California National Guard engineer, said that at least three months would pass before the city's public water system is fully operational. Some homes have running water now, but what's coming out of the taps is mostly untreated Mississippi River water. For those trying to take a bath, "It's like jumping in the river right now," he said.
Some of the displaced victims of the storm may end up in temporary housing provided by FEMA, which expects to use trailer homes to create "temporary cities," where some 200,000 hurricane survivors – most of them in Louisiana – could live for up to five years.
"This may not be quite on the scale of building the pyramids, but it's close," said Brad Fair, head of the FEMA housing effort.