- At least four nursing home patients died after being evacuated ahead of Ida.
- More than 700,000 power outages remained as of Saturday morning.
- The Mayor of New Orleans is urging residents to return.
The Louisiana attorney general launched an investigation Friday into the deaths of at least four nursing home patients who were among hundreds evacuated to a warehouse facility ahead of Ida, only to be stuck in what many said were squalid conditions.
“Our goal will be to determine who decided to move these patients to this apparently unsafe and potentially inappropriate facility,” Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a video released Friday.
More than 800 patients from seven nursing homes in four different parishes had been brought to the warehouse in the Tangipahoa Parish town of Independence, about 50 miles northwest of New Orleans. The area was hard hit by Ida and as of Saturday morning 75% of Tangipahoa Parish was still without power, according to poweroutage.us.
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Nurses said evacuees laying on flattened blowup mattresses cried out for help the toilets overflowed and the air conditioning shut down, nola.com reported.
Some families said they had no idea their relatives had been taken there. One of them, Terry Hicks, did not know where her husband dela was for a week after he told her his nursing home dela was being evacuated ahead of Ida. Then a relative spotted him in a news photo of those at the warehouse. He was in a wheelchair, holding his head, his foot bandaged.
“It breaks my heart to see my husband like that,” Hicks told nola.com. “It blew my mind. Me and my kids were devastated.”
On Friday, the warehouse was circled with yellow crime-scene tape.
The deaths were already under investigation by the Department of Health, which moved the evacuees to other nursing homes and hospitals on Thursday and Friday. Three of the four deaths have been classified as storm-related.
In all, ten deaths have been blamed on Ida in Louisiana, according to the health department: the three nursing homes patients, four people who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, two who died in floodwaters and one person who was killed by a falling tree.
In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is urging residents to return home as electricity is turned back on.
“We are saying, you can come home,” Cantrell said at a news conference.
At the same time, the city was offering transportation to anyone who wanted to leave and at least one senior citizens’ home was declared not safe, The Associated Press reported.
Reggie Brown, 68, who lined up with dozens of others from the Renaissance Place senior home to get on buses after city officials said the facility had to be evacuated. They were being taken to a state-run shelter.
Brown told the AP that elevators stopped working at the facility three days ago and garbage was piling up inside.
“I’m getting on the last bus,” Brown said. “I’m able-bodied.”
More than 700,000 power outages were being reported in southeast Louisiana as of about 9 am Saturday. A breakdown of percentages from the state Public Service Commission Saturday morning showed that about 73% of New Orleans without power. Lafourche and Plaquemines parishes were still listed as being 100% out, with Terrebonne, St. Charles at St. John the Baptist at 99%, St. James at 95% and Jefferson Parish at 88%.
Several other parishes still had significant outages as well.
An estimated timeline updated Saturday morning by Entergy, the state’s largest electricity provider, estimated that power would be restored sometime between now and Wednesday for residents in several areas, including most of New Orleans and parts of Ascension, St. Bernard, and Jefferson parishes.
Restoration for Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Charles and Terrebonne parishes is expected by Sept. 29.
The estimate for Tangipahoa Parish, where the evacuated nursing home residents died, was listed as Sept. 17.
Entergy noted in a tweet: “Estimates are subject to change.”
In St. John the Baptist Parish, Neisha Perrilloux and five other people were staying in her two-bedroom apartment dela in LaPlace Thursday, sweltering in temperatures in the 90s.
Perrilloux had a message for President Joe Biden ahead of his trip to the region on Friday: “We need help ASAP,” Perrilloux told nola.com. “As soon as he gets on the flight going back to where he sleeps.”
Biden LaPlace after he landed in New Orleans Friday afternoon.
He promised federal assistance and said the government had already distributed $100 million directly to individuals in the state via $500 checks, the AP reported. Biden said that because of a lack of cellphone service in hard-hit areas, many people don’t know what help is available.
LaPlace sits between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Ida’s eyewall tore through LaPlace on Sunday after coming ashore further south as a Category 4 hurricane, flooding neighborhoods and tearing buildings apart. At least 13 deaths are being attributed to the storm’s path across land in the South, according to The Associated Press, and at least 49 more to Ida’s torrential rainfall in the Northeast.
St. John the Baptist Parish officials have asked residents to stay away, but at least two told nola.com they had returned because they ran out of money.
About 3,400 people were staying at 28 shelter sites Friday, The Advocate reported.
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Those looking for open shelters are advised to text LASHELTER to 898-211 or call 211.
FEMA has approved Louisiana for a federal program that pays for hotel stays for up to 30 days for those whose homes are unlivable. Those interested should register at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.
Many of those who can afford it have relocated to hotels in other areas, including Jackson, Mississippi.
“To me, it’s traumatic, and I’ve really been praying about it, but I don’t know if I want to go back home,” evacuee Jeanette White told WJTV. “As much as I love New Orleans, I’m just getting tired of running from hurricanes.”
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