Four Nursing Home Died at Louisiana Evacuation Facility, Officials Say

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Four nursing home residents have died at an evacuation facility, Louisiana officials say.

Volunteers handing out supplies to residents in Kenner, La., on Wednesday.
Volunteers handing out supplies to residents in Kenner, La., on Wednesday.Credit…Edmund D. Fountain for The New York Times
  • Sept. 2, 2021Updated 2:16 p.m. ET

Four Louisiana nursing home residents who were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ida have died at facility where state inspectors were prevented from conducting a full assessment this week, state officials said on Thursday.

Three of the fatalities have been classified as storm-related by the coroner, though definitive causes of death have not yet been confirmed, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The deaths occurred at a facility in Tangipahoa Parish, north of New Orleans. Inspectors “promptly visited the site but were expelled from the property,” state officials said in a written statement. “We have significant concerns about conditions in this facility.”

More than 800 residents from seven different nursing homes had been moved to the Tangipahoa Parish facility, and state officials said they are working to find safe placements for them, beginning with the most vulnerable.

As of Thursday morning, 721 had been moved. A dozen of those required hospitalization.

“We will be taking action against these nursing facilities, and will be making appropriate referrals to law enforcement,” the State Department of Health said.

The news came as officials in New Orleans announced on Thursday that they were organizing a voluntary evacuation option for residents hoping to get out of the city, which remains largely without electricity.

Details of that plan are still in the works, but it would allow residents to be taken to a state-run shelter outside the city, said Collin Arnold, the New Orleans director of homeland security.

The city would give priority to elderly and disabled residents and then make the option available to the general public, he said.

Across Louisiana, approximately 594,000 customers remained without power on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the electric utility Entergy. By early afternoon, 30,000 power customers in New Orleans had their electricity restored, said Ramsey Green, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for infrastructure. Entergy hoped to restore full power to the French Quarter and central business district by late Thursday, he said.

Of 27 electric substations in New Orleans, Mr. Green said, 13 are back online.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell, speaking at an afternoon briefing, noted that in addition to electricity, access to fuel continues to be a challenge for city residents. “We just have not received adequate fueling sources to the general public.” Ms. Cantrell promised that “when we get more we shall share more.”

The storm that ripped through southeastern Louisiana on Sunday left a still-untold number of people without homes and wreaked havoc on other essential services. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves in places where water infrastructure was badly damaged by the storm and pumps and treatment plants were left without power.

President Biden, who is expected to visit the state on Friday, said the flash floods that inundated New York City and the powerful winds that knocked out power in Louisiana were a sign that “extreme storms and the climate crisis are here” and that the storms and fires creating life-or-death situations across the country constituted “one of the great challenges of our time.”

“Hurricane Ida didn’t care if you were a Democrat or Republican, rural or urban,” Mr. Biden said Thursday, urging Congress to pass his economic agenda when it returned from its recess later this month, in order to provide critical investments in electrical infrastructure. “This destruction is everywhere. And it’s a matter of life and death, and we’re all in this together.”

In the New Orleans area, carbon monoxide poisoning, from the misuse of generators, has sent at least a dozen people to hospitals and was linked to two deaths, the authorities said.

In Jefferson Parish, more populous than the city of New Orleans and right next door, virtually all residents were either experiencing water outages or under advisories to boil their water. Even as the heat was suffocating and air-conditioning almost nonexistent, drinking water in most of the parish was limited to whatever one had stocked before the storm or could get after waiting in lines for hours.

“This has become basic-level subsistence,” said Steve Robinson, the senior pastor of Church of the King, which has a site in Kenner, where a line of cars rolled through as volunteers from his congregation handed out pallets of water and buckets packed with toiletries, flashlights, first-aid kits and nonperishable foods. They eventually ran out of warm meals.

This was life, upended, in much of the region — an oil state in dire need of fuel, with places devastated by flooding left desperate for water. More than a dozen hospitals have been evacuated and people with serious medical conditions were still waiting for help in homes without power and down roads blocked by fallen trees.

At a news briefing, Cynthia Lee Sheng, the Jefferson Parish president, reiterated that the parish was “a broken community” that did not have electricity, communication or gas. She said she had taken an aerial tour over parts of the state on Wednesday and had been stunned by the widespread damage in Grand Isle and Lafitte.

“I had no idea how devastating the storm was to such an incredible amount of communities,” she said. “It looks like matchsticks, like a little pile of matchsticks.”

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