"I haven't heard from a lot of my friends and don't know if they are alive or dead," Neville told The Associated Press. "When they drain the city there will be a lot of bodies."
The award-winning singer, a member of the Neville Brothers (search) singing group, also said that more than two-dozen of his relatives have been evacuated from the city and are living in various states.
Neville, 64, believes much of his home is under water. Also gone are prized valuables, including photos and his four Grammys.
He and his brothers spent five years renovating an old house on Canal Street and turned it into a studio where they recorded the family album "Walkin' in the Shadow of Life" and his upcoming solo release, "Christmas Prayer."
They are donating a portion of their record sales toward the relief effort, which his label, EMI Music Group, has agreed to match.
Neville said New Orleans was a "disaster waiting to happen" and wished the response had been swifter: "The cavalry could have come a little sooner."
Neville has been living in Memphis for the past week and a half and is unsure if he will return to New Orleans. He had been on tour when the hurricane struck.
"I hope one day they will build New Orleans up high enough so this doesn't happen again," he said. "We don't need to be a bowl surrounded by water anymore."
Neville has been on overdrive this week since Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast and forced one of New Orleans' most famous musical families to flee.
After appearing on the BET telethon Friday, he'll fly to Nashville and join his three brothers to perform for a charity show, "ReAct Now: Music & Relief," which will air on MTV, VH1 and CMT.
On Sept. 18, he's scheduled to sing the national anthem for the game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints, who have also been displaced by the hurricane.
Neville, a burly man with a silky voice, is best known for the ballads "Tell It Like It Is" and joining Linda Ronstadt on "Don't Know Much."