In Louisiana, storm victims look to future

September 03, 1992|By New York Times News Service

LA PLACE, La. -- A week after Hurricane Andrew slashed through Louisiana, plastic sheets are spread on hundreds of roofs like oversized Band-Aids, utility crews jam the streets and National Guard troops direct traffic as the storm's victims begin the painful march from recovery to rebuilding.

Some communities have been so swamped by donations of food and other supplies that they have begun turning away contributions, while other towns remain dependent on daily truck convoys for water.

Across the state, fewer than 800 people remain in emergency shelters while about 32,000 people are still without power. Officials estimate the storm's repair bill could reach $1 billion statewide.

Along the rural by-ways of south-central Louisiana, heaps of tree limbs are forming on the roadsides as residents clear their yards of debris, and many businesses have reopened.

In Franklin, one of the hardest-hit towns, the crowd that just days ago used to form at the fire station for free meals has shifted a few blocks away to the Knights of Columbus building that now houses a field office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although the agency has started distributing the first checks for temporary housing assistance, local officials are wary of dealing with Washington.

"With the help of all the donations we've received from all over the country, we've been able to feed our people and keep the water and sewage going pretty much on our own, but now we are going to need the federal government to help pay for the rebuilding, and that's a scary thought," said Sam Jones, the mayor of Franklin.

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