FEMA Closes La. Trailer Park Housing Katrina Victims Over Health And Safety Concerns

Sunday, March 4th 2007, 9:05 pm
By: News On 6

HAMMOND, La. (AP) _ FEMA abruptly closed down a site housing Hurricane Katrina victims Sunday because of health and safety concerns, and its weary residents said they were being left in the lurch once again since losing everything in the storm.

A 48-hour deadline to leave fell on Sunday night, and FEMA scrambled to find new places for the 58 households.

Although many residents said they would have been happy to keep on living there, the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined it was too risky because of ongoing problems with raw sewage and periodic power outages.

``They know how to put me out, but they don't know how to help me out. That's how I look at it,'' Allsee Tobias said about FEMA. He lost his home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to post-Katrina flooding. ``Pack and pray. That's what they told us.''

About 20 of his family members, including 10 children, lived in four trailers, and they were anxious about FEMA splitting them up.

FEMA spokesman Manuel Broussard said, ``This is a very quick, decisive move because of concern for the residents.''

The site on this town's edge in the loblolly pine country north of New Orleans was one of the dozens of compounds the government rushed to establish for the tens of thousands of displaced hurricane victims.

Residents said they questioned the genuineness of the sudden concern for their health because the stink of sewage has been a nuisance for about a year.

``It's very unhealthy. The question is why did it take a year?'' said Ron Harrell.

He lived next to the site's sewage treatment system with his family, and the stink of sewage filled the air as he spoke. He said his two sons have repeatedly complained of health problems, which could be related to the sewage.

FEMA personnel swarmed over the bustling site Sunday, trying to help where they could. The agency moved residents' belongings in rental vans and agreed to pay to put some people's boxes and bags in storage, especially those residents moving into tighter quarters.

``We have 150 people working on site today to make this as easy as possible. But it is a difficult situation,'' Broussard said. He said the agency will do what it can to keep families together.

Besides the sewage that pours onto the grass, FEMA said electricity was cut off last week for the third time since Oct. 12. Broussard said the landowners had not paid the bills on time. Frank Bonner, a co-owner of the site, said FEMA has not paid on time.