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Flooding spreads misery in La.'s fishing villages

Residents of fishing villages who previously made a living off of the water surrounding their towns now must recover their belongings from the floods that overtook their homes.
Kyle Guidry paddles up a street in Laffite, La., to check on his house after surges from Hurricane Rita flooded the area on Saturday.
Kyle Guidry paddles up a street in Laffite, La., to check on his house after surges from Hurricane Rita flooded the area on Saturday.Kevork Djansezian / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Around this little town, everyone owns knee-high rubber boots, boats are anchored in most back yards, and one waterway or another runs past almost every house.

Residents of this region live among the hundreds of lakes, canals and bayous that stretch between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. They deal with more liquid than land.

“We spend a lot of time on the water,” said Sherry Adam, 55, wife of a shrimper. “We never had it in our houses like this before.”

As Hurricane Rita pounded past the little fishing villages south of New Orleans, it pushed water over the levees, drowning roads, buildings and homes on Saturday. Strong winds continued throughout the day, keeping the water rising steadily.

In the 1970s, a hurricane topped the 4-foot levee outside Adam’s house, dumping 4 inches of water into her house. On Saturday, she watched from the deck of a neighbor’s shrimp boat as 6 feet of water surged through her brick ranch house.

Hundreds of homes flooded
The area still was recovering from Hurricane Katrina that hit nearly a month ago.

“This is the worst we’ve had,” said Constable Albert Creppel, who knew of five breaks in the levees by early morning. “We had four houses flood in Katrina. We have hundreds flooded now.”

Boats piloted by deputies, rescue workers and private citizens roared up and down the wide Industrial Canal, ferrying families, dogs, cats, and a woman with a huge bird cage.

Power was cut to the area as the water rose and the wind blew down electrical lines. At least three fires destroyed houses inaccessible to firefighters because of the flood.

On the 38-foot shrimp boat Blood, Sweat and Tears, nine people, six dogs, two rabbits and a cat were riding out the flood.

“We’ve got food and water,” said Pam Rogers, who came back from a week’s evacuation to Texas to find her home destroyed by Katrina.

‘Now we're all homeless’
“We’ll just wait and see what happens,” said Genice Rivet, who joined the Rogers family on the boat when water poured into her house. “I didn’t have much damage before today. Now we’re all homeless.”

In the tiny cemeteries along the canal, water covered graves and statues and floated plastic flowers away. In one, the brisk current toppled several of the distinctive above-ground tombs.

Raul and Rose Machado pushed through chest deep water in their neighborhood, ignoring several snakes that swam past.

The couple’s house was flooded, but they planned to stay at a neighbor’s house, which had a second floor.

“If we leave where do we go — a shelter?” Raul Machado said. “We don’t want to do that, so we’ll wait and see. We have a pirogue, so we’re O.K.”