Post Katrina - Rebuilding from rubble
I've just returned from the Mississippi coast delivering supplies to my staff there and searching for our patients. I returned home to find I had electricity and water for the first time since the storm, and I checked my e-mail and read your stories. I thought you might want an update, since I've just seen it for myself.
Approximately 35% to 40% of my patient base lived on the coast - most below Interstate 10, where the destruction is most severe. The pictures and news reports do no justice to the loss we've experienced. The news reports on deaths are based on identified bodies only. The guardsmen I talked to said they are packing semi trucks full and shipping them to Jackson (seven trucks had moved so far). It will be weeks before there is any accurate count (many were never identified after Camille) - but the current estimate is in the thousands. The effort to retrieve the dead is difficult due to heat, water, and 20-plus feet piles of rubble - it is expected to continue for weeks.
We called our patients (as usual) prior to the storm and advised them to evacuate. Many lived in homes that withstood Camille - as did my backbay home where we stored essentials for our staff - and insisted they would "ride it out." All these residences, including our company residence, were reduced to rubble. We cannot locate our patients and expect many are dead. With phone communications out, we can only pray their families forced them to leave and they are somewhere safe - with our equipment or some other company's help.
I watched a battery operated TV that could air local information there - several companies that withstood the storm have opened their doors for medical supplies. Two of the three main hospitals in Gulfport/Biloxi are inoperable still - ER and triage are the primary focuses. They are transporting out what they can. They are finally receiving medical supplies and volunteers.
We will be returning with supplies and volunteers, but our Jackson location must stay ready for assisting the shelters and influx of evacuees. Our gas is rationed so travel is not easy. The few gas stations with gas are manned with police or guardsmen to prevent more violence, as are our banks and the few stores with generators.
Please keep this story alive; we will all need help for a long time.
- Candy Hanna, McHanna & Associates, Jackson, Miss.