Saturday, September 17, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

E-mail article     Print

Residents pick up pieces of lives

NEW ORLEANS — The nearly 200,000 residents returning to some of New Orleans' neighborhoods beginning next week will face military checkpoints, a lack of clean tap water and a dusk-to-dawn curfew that could keep the good times from rolling for a while.

"It's ridiculous, the curfew," said Franco Valobra, owner of a jewelry and antique shop in the French Quarter, world famous for its naughty nightlife. "Once it's open, it's open."

But other residents, from the wrought-iron balconies of the French Quarter to the white-columned mansions of the Garden District, said it may be months before they are ready for late-night jazz, bawdy clubs and partying until dawn.

"There are so many people who were gone and really have to get their houses back in order," said Sandra Cimini, whose family owns a bar on Chartres Street. "We don't want a bunch of tourists in here while we're trying to get our homes together, get our businesses together. It's not going to be walking down the street with a hurricane glass in your hand until we can get everything together."

Mayor Ray Nagin announced Thursday that the city's Algiers section, the Garden District and the French Quarter would reopen in the next week and a half, bringing back more than one-third of the city's 500,000 inhabitants.

But the mayor's homeland-security director, Terry Ebbert, backed away from that promise yesterday, saying only that the city would assess the situation in the French Quarter "day to day."

A spokeswoman for Nagin did not immediately return a call for comment.

Ebbert said the city's recovery depends on getting businesses reopened, but he said the repopulation of the city was being done "in a progressive manner" to ensure the safety and health of residents.

"We're taking this in a stair-step approach," Ebbert said, adding that a rainfall of 3 inches or more could pose a risk of further flooding. "Until we feel comfortable about the security to allow people to reoccupy these areas, we will move forward very, very carefully."


Official: No solid evidence

of large oil spills in Gulf

WASHINGTON — Despite claims circulating among environmentalists, there is no solid evidence that large amounts of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from offshore platforms damaged by Hurricane Katrina, a government official said yesterday.

Debbie Payton, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer with 26 years' experience in the field, said satellite images that appear to show oil plumes in the Gulf are inconclusive.

"I would be really hesitant to say it is all oil," Payton said after examining a Sept. 2 image of the region off Louisiana's coastline.

The image Payton analyzed was posted on the nonprofit Web site, which claims that the image is direct evidence of large oil spills. Bloggers and environmental groups have been circulating the claim for days.


73-year-old woman

released in looting charge

GRETNA, La. — A 73-year-old woman who was jailed for more than two weeks after authorities accused her of looting was released last night.

Merlene Maten said the first thing she wanted to do was visit her 80-year-old husband.

"I thank God this ordeal is over," she said. "I did nothing wrong."

Police arrested Maten on Aug. 30 on charges she took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli. Her bail had been set at $50,000.

Family and eyewitnesses insist she only had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat when officers cuffed her.

Despite intervention from AARP, the nation's largest senior lobby, volunteer lawyers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a private attorney, the family fought 16 days to free her.

Then, hours after her plight was featured in an Associated Press story, a local judge Thursday ordered Maten freed on her own recognizance.


Firm brings baggage

to Louisiana efforts

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The company hired to recover Louisiana bodies is owned by the same corporate parent sued for mishandling bodies and desecrating graves in South Florida cemeteries.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said it is contracting with Kenyon International, a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), to recover deceased storm victims through Nov. 15.

SCI was sued in 2001 after employees of two cemeteries — in Palm Beach Gardens and west of Fort Lauderdale — were accused of burying people in the wrong locations, breaking open vaults to squeeze in other remains and tossing bones into the woods.

SCI, the world's largest funeral-services company, agreed to pay $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by angered relatives of the deceased.


Hurricane Katrina death tolls reported by state and local officials as of yesterday:






Senators visit: The Senate's top leaders and committee members, led by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., began a visit to New Orleans, Pass Christian, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., to reassure people that federal resources necessary for recovery would be provided.

Troop withdrawal: About 4,700 active-duty federal troops sent to the Gulf Coast region by President Bush on Sept. 3 will be pulling out in coming days, the Pentagon said yesterday. About 2,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., will remain for an unspecified period of time, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Gannett News Service, Bloomberg News and Reuters

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


Get home delivery today!