Louisiana Nursing Home Residents Describe Squalor at Evacuation Center

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State officials, alerted to the deteriorating conditions at the warehouse, relocated all the residents over the course of 24 hours beginning on Wednesday, and by Friday morning, empty wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and dirty face masks piled outside of the warehouse were the only remaining signs that they had been there.

Longtime residents said the warehouse had once been used as a stocking factory and later was used to manufacture aerosol cans before largely going dark, though they said it was still sometimes used to store emergency supplies.

Many neighbors in Independence questioned why the nursing home residents had been brought to what turned out to be one of the hardest-hit regions in the state.

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In neighborhoods around the warehouse, the winds from Ida had blown the siding off mobile homes, pushed large trees through roofs and knocked branches onto power lines, sending splayed electrical wires across streets. A sign welcoming visitors to Independence was surrounded by trees snapped near the base of their trunks.

A block away from the warehouse, Lillian Danna, 92, who lives alone, stuck out the storm in the home where she has lived since the 1950s. As she cleared debris from her driveway on Friday, she described discovering that the storm had torn through her neighborhood. She awoke early on Monday, grabbing a flashlight to look outside, but it was too difficult to see clearly.

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When daylight came, she discovered that a large tree had crushed a shed in the backyard, leaving her thanking God that it hadn’t hit her house. It was hours before the wind relented, allowing her to finally open her door.

“If it had fallen on my house, it would have probably killed me,” she said.

A few nights later, she was confused by the dozens of vehicles — shuttles, RVs and buses — that packed the neighborhood, keeping neighbors awake through the night as the nursing home residents were taken to safety.

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Susan C. Beachy, Jack Begg and Alain Delaquérière contributed research.



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