NEW ORLEANS — John Ebanks spends his days sitting on a porch with his dog, watching the rescue boats go up and down his flooded street, passing up chances to leave. He’s got plenty of supplies, lots of mosquito spray.
Ebanks is staying put.
“I’m an old Merchant Marine,” the 69-year-old Ebanks said. “You’ve got to protect your property, that’s the main thing. This is all I’ve got. I’m pretty damn old to start over.”
A rescue team from New Mexico idled outside his house, urging him to go, warning that cholera is a threat, that the water was so bad, “the fish are dying.” When Ebanks said no, they wrote down his name and moved on.
Pleading and threatening, cajoling and frightening, rescue boat crews are sweeping through New Orleans trying to get the holdouts to leave before disease, stench and mosquitoes become unbearable.
Pollution of all kinds
The water, still as high as 7 feet in the city’s eastern neighborhoods, is tainted from decomposing bodies, gasoline and oil, and refuse. It’s been a week since Hurricane Katrina hit, tens of thousands of residents have fled on their own or been evacuated, but still some residents stay behind.
Joe Youdell and Bill Sprake of the Kentucky Air National Guard say they’ve evacuated 30 to 40 people a day the last five days in their Zodiac, but still find many residents who refuse. They’ve warned them they face major hazards.
“The health risks are getting to be too high to stay,” Youdell tells them. “That water is pretty much sewer water at this point.”
Earlier this week, Youdell called on a woman for a third time and urged her to go with him. Once again, she said no.
They can’t make people leave, but they’ve stopped giving them water and food, hoping to push them in that direction.
Many of the holdouts said they did not want to go to another state for an indefinite stay. They worry about their homes and possessions and often, they have pets they refuse to leave behind.
'They can't make me leave'
One resident, Terry Panquerne, was irate after New Orleans police told him he had to leave.
“Where were they during the hurricane? The worst is over now,” he said. “I was born and raised here and I pay taxes. They can’t make me leave.”
A team from Missouri was helping some two dozen evacuees to an Army helicopter pickup point. Matt Schofield of the Missouri Task Force said rescue teams weren’t forcing anyone to leave, but were “strongly encouraging them.”
“We’ve been trying to paint an accurate picture of what’s ahead. We’re being honest with them. This is such a widespread disaster, it’s going to take a long time to get this rebuilt,” Schofield said.
But Diane Royal, 70, said she isn’t going anywhere. She’s staying there with her nephew and dog.
“We shall not be moved,” she said. “The only one I’m making plans with is Jesus.”
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