By Kari Huus Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 8/28/2006 6:39:43 AM ET 2006-08-28T10:39:43

Throughout the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast, there is the noise of houses being gutted, debris being moved, and the sound of complaining about insurance and FEMA. But in the town where Rogers Landry lived before Katrina, there is little more than a maddening silence.

Three months after the hurricane smashed Bohemia, not enough debris has been moved to make way for FEMA trailers. Nor have power, sewer or water been restored. So none of the 200 or so residents who lived in Bohemia have returned.

The same is true for neighboring towns that dot the east bank of the Mississippi river — Bohemia, Davant, Nero, Bellevue, Harlem, Pointe A La Hache and Phoenix — tiny African-American communities with generations-long ties to the delta area.

The scene here is nothing like New Orleans, about 40 miles to the north, where people wonder when they should return, whether they can save their damaged houses, and when the stores, schools and bars will open. In Bohemia, there is literally nothing to return to.

"I've seen a few people come through," says Landry, a police officer who has stayed in the area since Katrina. Since his home in Bohemia was destroyed, he has lived in a hotel in Belle Chasse, in the north part of this county, Plaquemines Parish, with his wife, who is also a police officer. "But they're waiting on the parish government to clean the land off. It's just hurry up and wait."

He's not the only one who is mystified and frustrated.

"It’s a slow process," says John L. Barthelemy Jr., the parish councilman for the east bank of the parish. "I don’t know why it’s so slow. FEMA’s the problem, according to the parish president. FEMA says it’s the administration."

Katrina pushed a wall of water over levies intended to protect Bohemia and its neighboring towns from the Gulf Coast marsh on the east, and the Mississippi river on the west. By the look of it, the town was subjected to a monumental flushing motion. Afterward, water trapped between the levies left the towns under water for days before receding very gradually.

Putting out fires
The parish government has perhaps been justified in focusing its efforts on the larger west bank towns that suffered a fate similar to Bohemia, and to be sure, it has been forced to deal with a string of crises. On Sept. 25, Hurricane Rita reflooded many of the communities and created 17 breaches in the levee system including damage to temporary fixes put in place after Katrina.

In October, Plaquemines Parish President Benny Rousselle faced off with FEMA, which had decided to pull out a National Defense Reserve Fleet ship that was being used to house and feed nearly 400 workers trying to get a damaged oil refinery in Belle Chasse repaired and reopened. Rousselle was successful; the pullout was delayed. Oil and gas royalties are the main sources of local government revenues.

Katrina was also devastating to the area's other economic mainstay — commercial fishing —clobbering one of the country's biggest seafood ports at Empire, on the west bank of the river. The government and fishing association are scrambling to revive that $2.6 billion a year industry.

But Bohemia was a quiet little town. Many of its residents made a modest living harvesting oysters or catfish. If it had any center it was the Bethlehem Judea African Baptist Church, a large brick building that had survived from the Civil War era, but now lies in ruins.

“It was a beautiful little community,” Landry told MSNBC.com shortly after the storm. “But the storm came and took everything away from us.”

Three months after the storm, it isn't clear when, if ever, the little town will come back together.

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