Louisiana parish thanks Maryland for assistance

September 13, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

With hundreds of doctors and nurses staffing health centers for Hurricane Katrina victims just south of New Orleans, Maryland has become "a guardian angel," Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said yesterday.

Broussard has been an outspoken critic of federal relief efforts - he suggested on NBC's Meet the Press last week that "whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off" - but he had considerably nicer things to say about Maryland's contribution to his parish's recovery.

"When things were the bleakest here and we were looking for some sort of relief from the federal level or state level or whatever, you were a lighthouse on a dark shore," Broussard told Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in a phone call yesterday.

Maryland Homeland Security Director Dennis Schraeder said the state decided to concentrate its civilian relief efforts in one place, and by Sept. 5, doctors, nurses and emergency medical personnel who had registered as volunteers with the state began arriving in Jefferson Parish, just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

On Tuesday, they began setting up health clinics in elementary schools. At first, few people came, said Clay B. Stamp of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. But on the second day, as word spread, the number of victims seeking help doubled, and the next day it tripled, he said.

"It's become something the communities are dependent on," said Stamp, who has spent the past week in Louisiana. More than 600 Marylanders are helping with disaster relief in the region, with most efforts concentrated in Jefferson Parish, Ehrlich administration officials said.

The Maryland National Guard has flown 18 relief flights to the region, and the state and local governments have prepared for the relocation of storm evacuees here.

Ehrlich told Broussard that Maryland will continue helping his parish as long as it is needed. Broussard said that if Maryland ever suffers from such a disaster, his parish will be first in line to help.

"You won't even have to call," he told Ehrlich. "I will be there."

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