Second FEMA registration required for RITA

Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Victims of Hurricane Katrina who have suffered additional damage from Hurricane Rita must submit a separate registration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for the additional damages suffered from Hurricane Rita.

Applicants who have not returned home since Hurricane Katrina should report that there was damage from Hurricane Rita, even if they are unsure of the details. It will be presumed the damage resulted from the storm.

The Louisiana parishes that have been designated for assistance for both hurricanes are: Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and Vermilion. Individuals should complete the registration even if their parish has not been designated for assistance.

The fastest way to register for disaster assistance is to register online at Other valuable information regarding disaster assistance is also available at the FEMA Web site. Individuals can also call the toll-free telephone number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362); (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. Online registration and the toll-free numbers are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week, until further notice.

Storm casualties

32 victims of Hurricane Katrina have been identified:

Jose Ares
Justin Babin
Della Badeaux
Edith I. Bennett
Bulah Boss
Danny Brumfield
Wessie Crutchfield
Maggie Dennis
Ruby Frazier
Gulda Haines
Carrie Hall
Mary Hamilton
Isabelle Hebert
James Jackson Sr.
Myrtle Jackson
Aleria M. Jefferson
Preston Johnson
Ella W. Jones
Ruby Joseph
Elias Kaprissis
Willie Martinez
Reba Massey
Arthur Mason
Jessie May
Rose Migllore
Helen Olivier
Peter Pelitere
Eva Rodrigue
Alma Ryburn
Onita Stewart
Ronald Lee Taylor
Jason Zito

Claims of medically assisted deaths probed

By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – The chief medical officer assigned to identify the victims of Hurricane Katrina said he is working with Attorney General Charles Foti to see if any medical personnel may have administered death-inducing or used other procedures to speed the deaths of patients before or after Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area.

Dr. Louis Cataldie, a former East Baton Rouge Parish coroner and now the lead medical officer overseeing recovery and identifying the dead, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that he is looking into possible euthanasia by the medical personnel.

He refused to be more specific, saying he did not want to jeopardize the probe.

Foti spokeswoman Kris Wartelle said the office is looking into a wide range of activities, including possible questionable deaths in hospitals and nursing homes.

“It (allegations of euthanasia) is something we have heard’’ but cannot confirm, Wartell said. “We are not saying it did happen; we are not saying it didn’t happen. . . .We are looking into it.’’

Foti’s staff has arrested operators of a St. Bernard Parish nursing home on charges of negligent homicide, alleging they did not follow evacuation plans and failed to get some of the residents out in time to escape rising waters, even turning down bus transportation for the residents.

Attorneys for the nursing home said the charges are baseless and ill-founded.

As Wednesday, 896 bodies had been recovered and 783 were being held at a makeshift morgue in St. Gabriel. The others were being held in 13 coroners’ offices around the state.

Only 340 of them, Cataldie said, have been tentatively identified, and 32 have been released for burial

Firefighters respond to Harvey blaze

Wednesday, 6:15 p.m.

Firefighters are on the scene of an apartment fire in Harvey.

Shortly before 6 p.m., the blaze was reported in the 1500 block of Angus Drive, according to the Harvey Volunteer Fire Department.

Nagin says some residents can return Friday

By Robert Travis Scott

Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE – New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced a three-stage re-entry plan for city residents and businesses Wednesday, saying the West Bank and pockets of the east bank are safe for return but also cautioning citizens about limited infrastructure and potential health risks.

Re-entry begins today when businesses will have full access to their properties in the approved zip codes, with the second phase coming Friday when residents in those same codes are allowed to return permanently.

The approved zip codes are: 70112, 70113, 70114, 70115, 70116, 70118, 70130 and 70131. Security checkpoints will be repositioned to allow entry.
Re-entry begins today when businesses will have full access to their properties in the approved zip codes, with the second phase coming Friday when residents in those same codes are allowed to return permanently.

The approved zip codes are: 70112, 70113, 70114, 70115, 70116, 70118, 70130 and 70131. Security checkpoints will be repositioned to allow entry.

“New Orleans is back open,” Nagin told a meeting of state lawmakers, parish council members and citizens at the state Capitol Wednesday afternoon. “If you want to stay, you’re free to stay” in those designated areas as of Friday, Nagin said.

The final phase will occur Oct. 5 when residents in all other areas of the city – except the Lower 9th Ward – can visit their properties, but cannot stay. The Lower 9th Ward will remain closed until further notice because it is flooded.

“This is strictly look and leave” in the stage 3 areas, Nagin said.

Nagin cautioned that if a home in any area is not habitable the resident must leave the city by sunset. The city has posted red stickers on homes that inspectors say pose a structural hazard. Nagin recommended that residents not try to enter homes that have been marked with a red sticker.

He said some homes are damaged and that people who return do so “at your own risk” for structural problems. He advised citizens to be especially cautious about access to upper floors of homes if they have been damaged.

The mayor said the city’s previous re-entry plan for the West Bank, which started Monday, is going very well.

“Algiers is alive and well and breathing,” Nagin said.

Power is on in 75 percent to 85 percent of the targeted zip code areas, Nagin said. Water on the east bank must be boiled before drinking, and Nagin suggested people drink bottled water. Nagin said people could shower in the water on the east bank, but Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Fred Cerise, who spoke at the meeting, recommended that people use bottled or boiled water for showers and washing dishes.

Residents who return should run their hot and cold water faucets for 15 minutes to clear the pipes. The water temporarily might have a chlorine odor, Nagin said, because the sewerage and water board has added disinfectant.

New Orleans School Board President Torin Sanders, who spoke at the meeting, set a Nov. 1 target date to reopen nine schools on the West Bank, and said some schools Uptown might also open around that time if enough students return to make it necessary. “That's what we're shooting for,” Sanders said.

Nagin's comments came as Cerise warned in a news release that those who return to the east bank of New Orleans are doing so at their own risk. “The two things that are absolutely necessary to public health – clean drinking water and proper sewage systems – simply are not available in the east bank area of New Orleans at this time,” he said in the new release.

The release, which warned that returnees are at risk of diseases such as E. Coli, salmonella or diarrhea, infuriated legislators who said displaced residents are getting mixed messages from authorities about whether it's safe to return.

“Either get on board or get off,” state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, D-Marrero, told Cerise, echoing several of his colleagues.

Nagin accused state officials of trying to put a negative spin on New Orleans while being more positive about other parishes in the storm damaged areas.

“Every time we talk about re-entry into the city, some official pops up and says we’re not ready,” Nagin said. “We are not rowing in the same direction in the same boat.”

Cerise, who was not originally scheduled to testify but was asked to come to the meeting and clarify his remarks, said he simply wanted returning residents to take proper precautions until the water has been deemed safe.

“We don't recommend people washing dishes, washing their hands (with tap water),” he said. “If it's on your hands, there's still a risk there.”

Although Cerise said many healthy adults could bathe or wash dishes in the contaminated water without getting sick, he advised residents to boil water or treat it with bleach before using it to wash. All officials agreed that residents should drink only bottled water until the tap water has been decontaminated.

The Health and Hospitals document was nearly identical in tone and message to a news release posted Wednesday on the city's official Web site, in which returning residents are warned that they are “entering the city of New Orleans at your own risk,” because “there are still many health and safety issues.”

Farther down, the city's news release warns east bank residents against drinking, bathing or washing one's hands in untreated tap water.

Staff writer Jan Moller contributed to this report.

Real estate transactions still stymied

5:47 p.m., Wednesday

By Greg Thomas
Real estate writer

It’s still impossible to close on a real estate transaction in Orleans Parish because mortgage and conveyance records remain in 18 refrigerator trucks outside the once-flooded basement of Civil District Court on Poydras Street.

But after rescuing and freeze-drying them from the flooded basement weeks ago and with experts assuring that the 12 million pages of documents are OK, the problem has been finding and establishing a place where the drying process can be completed and abstractors can access them to do the necessary research for the closing of real estate transactions.

Finally, according to New Orleans Custodian of Archives Steven Bruno and Recorder of Mortgages Gasper Schiro, a temporary solution has been reached to establish temporary operations at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. That decision has been approved by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Simms Julien.

Bruno said that he hopes that by Oct. 10, the records should be open to the public. “By Oct. 10, the records, which are intact, will be out of boxes. It’s going to be rough, but we’re going to do our best to make these records available to the public,’’ Bruno said.
Munters, a Swedish-based records restoration firm, rescued the documents from the basement of the 56-year-old courthouse, where the Recorder of Mortgages and Register of Conveyances have worked since 1951.

Gasper has sworn -- and Wednesday, Chief Judge Simms Julien backed him up -- that the records will never be returned to the basement of the courthouse.

While access will be made to the records at the Convention Center through the Julia Street entrance, a permanent deal is being sealed to locate both the Recorder of Mortgages and the Register of Conveyances to the fifth floor of 1340 Poydras St., the office tower opposite the courthouse. It was long known as the Amoco building. That move should remain in place until a new Civil District Court complex, long planned but a long way from fruition, happens, Simms Julien said.

The critical need for re-establishing both offices, along with the restrictions on commerce caused by the unavailability of the records, was brought to the attention of New Orleans City Council members by John Casbon at the council’s meeting Tuesday, the second meeting since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Casbon said Wednesday that he told council members, who seemed unaware of the seriousness of the issue, “that you can’t have commerce in this town until we have a conveyance office’’ in Orleans Parish.

He sharply criticized a preliminary plan to open a mortgage and conveyance intake office in Gonzales, where Civil District Court and Civil District Clerk of Court Dale Atkins will be relocating. While the office would allow for filings, it would not have allowed for abstractors -- the researchers who conduct title searches and check documents critical to land and property records -- to do the necessary work to move a real estate deal to closing.

He said that Councilmen-at-large Eddie Sapir said council members were “clueless’’ to the critical need for the operation.

Casbon added that there were numerous pending real estate transactions in the city, from speculators looking to snap up properties to home buyers looking to replace flooded or wind-destroyed homes in hopes of returning to their city.

Casbon and Bruno said that they expected to be swamped once the offices are up and running and real estate transactions can be completed.

Meanwhile, land records and abstract work have continued operating in Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes, where courthouse operations were not affected by the storm.

Land records in River Parishes were unaffected by Hurricane Katrina.

In St. Bernard Parish, title attorney Sidney Torres III, whose mother is the long-time St. Bernard Parish Clerk of Court, said land records were moved from the basement of the St. Bernard Highway courthouse as the storm approached and secured on higher floors. Torres said his mother, Lena Torres, said that all St. Bernard Parish officials would meet today to discuss reopening government offices, including access to land records.

No word on the status of Plaquemines Parish land records was available late Wednesday.

Archivist Bruno said that he has told Munters to begin slowly warming the refrigeration trucks from their maintained 42 degrees, where workers have checked the books three times daily. The trucks contain 60,000 boxes holding 20,000 containers with two to three conveyance or mortgage inside books each. It will take three days to unload the trucks and shelving already ordered should arrive in time to allow access to the books. The books still need to sit in a climate-controlled atmosphere for a few days once off-loaded to the Convention Center, Bruno said. Some of the documents will need “remediation,’’ Munters officials told Bruno, but officials call the survival of the documents “a miracle.’’

Hurricane benefits update

Wednesday,5:45 p.m.

Almost $112 million has been paid out in emergency food stamp benefits to victims of Hurricane Katrina, officials of the Department of Social Services said Wednesday.

Department spokeswoman Nanette Russell White said that the benefits have gone to almost 309,000 household affected by Katrina in 25 southeastern parishes.

She said plans are under way “to assist victims of Hurricane Rita in a similar manner to those impacted by Hurricane Katrina,’’ if federal officials approve.

The emergency benefits may be available to residents of the parishes affected by Hurricane Rita as early as Saturday.

Agency Secretary Ann Williamson said the state has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service – which issues the food stamps -- to approve the request for Rita’s victims in Acadia, Allen Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes.

Williamson said she anticipates a quick response from the federal agency.

White said that as of Wednesday, there were 45,384 evacuees from both hurricanes living temporarily in 345 shelters around the state. The number of evacuees living in out-of-state shelters was not given.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Labor has received 198,750 Katrina-related claims for unemployment insurance and disaster unemployment assistance. Labor officials said that 177,595 of the applications had been approved as of Wednesday.

The number of applications received from Rita victims was not available.

Meanwhile, National Guard officials said they have handed out more than 6.4 million ready-to-eat meals to victims of both hurricanes: more than 5 million to Katrina victims and more than 1.4 million to Rita victims.

Guard officials said their troops have rescued 4,200 citizens from Katrina’s winds and waters and another 2,000 from Rita’s.

Guard officials also said they have provided about 1.6 million bottles of water to Rita victims and 6 million bottles to Katrina victims.

-Ed Anderson, Capital bureau.

All Gulf oil production stopped for now

By Mary Judice
Business writer

Hurricanes Rita and Katrina have damaged more offshore drilling rigs than any storm in recent times, and one report on Wednesday said all oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has temporarily ceased.

The Minerals Management Service said Wednesday that its survey indicated that 100 percent of oil production in the Gulf is shut down as well as more than 80 percent of natural gas production.

The Gulf supplies 29 percent of the nation’s oil and 21 percent of the gas.

Rita, which came ashore Saturday morning, hit the western Gulf. Hurricane Katrina, which came ashore Aug. 29, struck the central Gulf. Both areas are rich with offshore production platforms and drilling rigs.

“We’ve never experienced the amount of damage to the rig fleet we’ve
experienced from these two storms,’’ said Tom Marsh, U.S. editor of
the energy information firm, ODS-Petrodata.

Damage is not the only reason that production has stopped, or what the industry calls shut in.

Gary Strasburg, spokesman for the MMS, which is an agency of the U.S. Interior Department, said some production has stopped because of Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on overflights, which oil producers need to do to assess damage before sending crews out. Also, the oil industry is still attempting to locate its employees, and even when oil is produced, refineries and pipelines cannot always accept the oil.

But damage is a main cause.

“There is a tremendous amount of damage out there,’’ said Jefferson
Parker, president of the energy investment firm Howard Weil, which has moved its New Orleans headquarters temporarily to Houston. The two storms each reached a Category 5 status at one time and that Rita “left the Gulf in shambles.’’

Marsh’s rig report showed that six jack-up rigs, which are used for
shallow water drilling, may have been lost in the wake of Hurricane Rita, including one rig that probably sank.

One hard-hit drilling company, Rowan Cos. Inc. of Houston, has not been able to locate one of its rigs and found that two others were no longer in their pre-storm locations. The hull of another rig, the Rowan Louisiana, was sheared from it legs and was found beached in Louisiana.

Deep water drilling platforms, known as semisubmersibles, also
sustained damage. Diamond Offshore found two semis some 100
miles away from pre-storm locations and two others grounded.

Marsh said the survey of mobile rigs had accounted for all but one of
the rigs and that early surveys showed that the fixed platforms had fared better than the mobile rigs.

Another segment of the industry, refining, was also damaged. A quarter of U.S. refining capacity was knocked out for a time, and much of that capacity is in refineries that still lack a firm schedule for restarting. The fallout from Hurricane Rita included 1.5 million barrels per day of refining capacity out of service in addition to the 800,000 barrels per day that had not been restarted after Hurricane Katrina.

But the damage to refineries was not as severe as it could have been, Parker said, and several refineries sustained minimal damage. A number of refineries have not restarted because they do not have power.

Gene Gillespie, research director at Howard Weil, said though the
Gulf is shut in, several refineries are able to operate by running imported crude and domestic crude from sources other than the Gulf.

He also said the real amount shut in may not be as great as reported. On Wednesday, Kerr McGee and Nexen reported their deep water oil wells in the Gulf had begun producing. The MMS survey is based on a sampling.

Gillespie said within two to four weeks he expected that the shut-in
oil figures would fall by as much as 50 percent.
Futures prices for November light, sweet crude rose $1.28 a barrel to settle at $66.35 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

State Farm changes rules

5:16 p.m., Wednesday

By Jeffrey Meitrodt
Staff Writer

Franki LaRocca didn’t waste any time. The Metairie resident, who has been living in Houston since she was forced to evacuate four weeks ago, called her State Farm agent the day after Hurricane Katrina clobbered the New Orleans area on Aug. 29.

At first, she was delighted by what the insurer had to tell her. Because civil authorities ordered the evacuation, she said, State Farm offered to cut her a check for $2,500 to help cover the family’s living expenses for 14 days. But between work and lining up a new school for her 16-year-old son, LaRocca wasn’t able to make it to a State Farm office until this week. By then, she said, the offer had been retracted.

“I am totally floored,’’ said LaRocca, whose home sustained no flood or wind damage. “It’s like because we have a home to return to that this company is changing the way they’re responding. It shouldn’t be that way.’’

LaRocca isn’t the only State Farm customer scratching her head these days. Though the company shelled out $225 million to its policyholders for living expenses immediately following the catastrophic storm, the rules for handing out that kind of assistance have changed, State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke said Wednesday.
Previously, the company was willing to relax its rules for living expenses, which means State Farm did not apply its standard deductible to the $2,500 checks it sent to about 90,000 policyholders in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Customers were also told that they didn’t have to provide receipts or return any unspent cash as long as they don’t seek any additional money from the company for Katrina-related expenses.

But any policyholder who was left out of the company’s initial burst of largesse cannot expect such treatment. Any claims for living expenses are now subject to the standard deductible – which typically ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 – and receipts will be required for payment, Luedke said.

He said policyholders shouldn’t be disappointed. He said State Farm is merely abiding by the terms of its homeowners’ policy. He said this policy will apply to anyone who sought assistance for living expenses more than two weeks after the storm passed.

“We are sacrificing absolute uniformity in the application of the deductible, but we are still making sure that everybody gets – at the very least – what they are entitled to,’’ Luedke said.

So why did State Farm treat the first wave of claims differently?

“We took this action in response to a horrific event at a time when the needs among many of our policyholders was great,’’ Luedke said. “I know there will be some cases where someone received more money than they were entitled to. But that is a business risk we decided to take.’’

With 33 percent of the market, State Farm is the largest provider of homeowners’ insurance in Louisiana. Based on a survey of other companies, it also appears to be the only major insurer in the state to apply the deductible to living expenses under the so-called civil authority clause, which was triggered when local officials ordered residents out of their homes and didn’t let them immediately return.

At Allstate Insurance Co., which has about 20 percent of the Louisiana market, no deductible will apply to such payment requests, no matter when the claim was filed, Allstate spokesman Mike Trevino said.

“The timing doesn’t matter – no deductible applies,’’ Trevino said.

Such unequal treatment infuriates many State Farm customers, who don’t believe the company is playing fair with them. In fact, some policyholders say State Farm agents warned that their deductible would probably offset any help they could get for living expenses, even if they contacted the company immediately after the storm passed.

“My deductible is $1,000, and my (State Farm) agent kind of convinced me not to file a claim,’’ said Paul Perque, a LaPlace resident who spent about $1,200 to move his family to a hotel near Marksville for about 10 days. “They said these checks are for people who lost everything and had total destruction of their homes. But that’s not what I read in the newspaper.’’

Luedke said it’s possible some State Farm agents gave bad information to their policyholders in the immediate aftermath of the storm, probably because communication was fouled up. He urged the company’s customers to look at the “declarations” page of their policies, which he said spells out how the deductible applies to “loss of use” claims related to actions taken by a civil authority, such as a mandatory evacuation.

Jeffrey Meitrodt can be reached at

Jefferson School Board to meet Thursday

The Jefferson Parish School Board will meet Thursday in its fourth special meeting since Hurricane Katrina and the last before schools reopen next week.

The meeting is scheduled for noon in the Jefferson Parish Council chambers, 200 Derbigny St., in Gretna.

Among other topics, the board is expected to discuss a revised school calendar, its financial standing, the conditions of its buildings, temporary housing for
returning teachers and the registration of new students, which began Tuesday and will continue through Saturday at nine locations parishwide.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the system had registered 1,071 students, school system spokesman Jeff Nowakowski said. The district is registering students
who are new to Jefferson as well as those who have relocated within the parish in the aftermath of Katrina.

The state of Jefferson's school system has become increasingly critical, since the neighboring parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines suffered heavy damage to their school districts, displacing thousands of students.

Jefferson is rolling out the welcome mat to all such students, particulary because its state funding is largely based on enrollment, with a certain dollar
amount attached to each student.

Before the storm, Jefferson, one of the state's largest school systems, had about 50,000 students. A revamped student count will occur next week, as the
system reopens the vast majority of its 84 schools. Still unclear, though, is how many students will return to the district, officials said.

BR museums, attractions offer free admission

By Millie Ball
Travel editor
BATON ROUGE - Several museums and attractions in Baton Rouge and nearby towns are opening their doors for free this Friday and Saturday to residents of Baton Rouge - both those who live here full time and evacuees who have been calling the capital home since Hurricane Katrina.

There also will be music at the Live After Five concert starring Terrence Simien and his Zydeco band from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday downtown at Laurel and 3rd Streets. In conjunction with the concert is Discover BR: An Introduction to the Captial City, which will introduce Baton Rouge attractions, restaurants, stores and shops.

Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau explained that the open house is "our city's way of showing all of our newcomers that we're glad to have them here. Each of these local attractions is opening its doors to make everyone feel like Baton Rouge is their home."

For tourism information about Baton Rouge, call (800) 527-6843 or go to Tourist brochures and maps are available at 730 North Blvd. and in the State Capitol.

Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM), 100 South River Road in downtown Baton Rouge. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and to 5 p.m. Saturday. (225) 344-5272, Among current exhibits are abstract and neo-geometric conceptual paintings by artist Peter Halley, a large-screen film about cave exploring and the permanent display of artifacts from ancient Egypt.

Old Governor's Mansion, 502 North Blvd., in the historic Beauregard Town neighborhood of downtown Baton Rouge, (225) 387-2464, Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Performances by LSU faculty and staff in the house museum built in 1930 by Gov. Huey P. Long.

Old State Capitol, next to the Mississippi River at 100 North Blvd. (225) 342-0500, (800) 488-2968 Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Noted Gothic Revival building used from the 1850s until 1932; several rooms furnished in period pieces.

State Capital, 900 North Third Street, downtown Baton Rouge, (225) 342-7317, Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (observation deck closes at 4 p.m.). See the House of Representatives and Senate chambers, also the spot where Gov. Huey P. Long was assassinated. Also The Shop at the Top (State Capitol), open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, 20 percent discount on Louisiana heritage souvenirs.

LSU Museum of Art, 100 Lafayette St. downtown, on the 5th floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts. (225) 389-7202, (under construction). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Current exhibit on art along the Mississippi River, 1850-1860. Permanent collection of 19th and early 20th century art, jade, Newcomb pottery, silver, Indian artifacts.

The Enchanted Mansion, 190 Lee Drive, Baton Rouge. (225) 769-0005, Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A doll museum.

National Hansen's Disease Museum, Building 12 of the Carville Historic District, 5445 Point Clair Road, Carville, La. (on the west bank of River Road between Plaquemine and White Castle, south of Baton Rouge). (225) 642-1950, (22225) 225) 642-1950 Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Museum focuses on the history of Carville, includes a re-creation of a room from the 1940s, when the public erroneously referred to Hansen's disease as leprosy.

River Road African-American Museum & Gallery, 406 Charles St., Donaldsonville, La. (225) 474-5553, Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Exhibits on free people of color, African influences on cooking; slave inventories; the rural roots of jazz; the Underground Railroad; rural folk artists, inventors and doctors; reconstruction and education.

Evergreen Plantation, on the west bank of River Road between Wallace and Edgard. (888) 858-6877 or (985) 497-3837, Open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A working sugar cane plantation with 37 buildings, including 22 slave cabins. Admission usually is $20.

St. Joseph Plantation, 3535 Highway 18, Vacherie, La. (down River Road from Oak Alley Plantation), (225) 265-4078, Open 9:30 a.m. with last tour at 4 p.m. Friday and Sat. This recently opened plantation tells the story of sugar cane farming. Also open are the main house and a slave cabin.

Iberville Museum, 57735 Main St, Plaquemine. (225) 687-7197. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In the old City Hall of the town of Plaquemine, 12 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, the museum features the history of Iberville Parish and includes a Mardi Gras room with costumes and photos.

Millie Ball can be reached at

Recovery centers open

Wednesday, 2:54 p.m.

Consolidating services and information to handle
residents' post-Katrina needs, FEMA and the state's
homeland security office opened a multi-purpose
recovery center Wednesday in Jefferson Parish.

One of 19 "disaster recovery centers" statewide, the
Jefferson branch is located at the Westside Shopping
Center, 15 West Bank Expressway, in Gretna. It will be
open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Residents can use the facility to meet with FEMA
officials to discuss disaster relief, and the U.S.
Small Business Administration will also be available.

In the coming days, the Red Cross and the Army Corps
of Engineers are also expected to provide services at
the center, FEMA spokesman Kelly Hudson said
Wednesday. The corps is running a program through
which homeowners with damanged roofs can obtain blue
tarps to protect their property.

No cash, checks, debit cards or vouchers are
distributed at the centers, Hudson said, adding that
the main goal of the centers is to provide
information. Residents are still encouraged to call
800-621-FEMA for help.

The other centers statewide are:

Ascension Parish
13192 Airline Highway
Gonzales, La. 70737
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

East Baton Rouge Parish
1 & 2 Maritime Place
101 France St.
Baton Rouge, La. 70802
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Lafayette Parish
Harvest Church International
111 Liberty Ave.
Lafayette, La. 70508
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Plaquemines Parish
Belle Chasse Auditorium
8398 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, La. 70037
Due to Curfew: 8 a. m. to 6 p. m.

St. Charles Parish
Bingo Hall
13415 U.S. 90
Boutte, La. 70039
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

St. Tammany Parish
John Slidell Municipal Park Recreation Center
105 Robert Road
Slidell, La. 70458
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Webster Parish
Old Wal-Mart Store
1100 Homer Rd.
Minden, La. 71055
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Avoyelles Parish
635 East Tunica Drive
Marksville, La. 71351
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Iberville Parish
Iberville Parish Library
24605 J. Gerald Barrett Blvd.
Plaquemine, La. 70764
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Lafourche Parish
Jake’s Department Store
513 St. Mary Street
Thibodaux, La. 70301
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Quachita Parish
Civic Center Convention Hall
401 Lea Joyner Memorial Expwy
Monroe, La. 71210
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

St. James Parish
Lions Club Bldg.
29126 Health Unit St.
Vacherie, La. 70090
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Washington Parish
Old Barnes Furniture Building
539 Avenue V
Bogalusa, La. 70427
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Bossier and Caddo Parishes
Old Summergrove Baptist Church
2820 Summer Grove Drive
Shreveport, La. 71118
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Orleans Parish
Landry High School
Whitney Ave. & LaMarque Street
Algiers, La
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Rapides Parish
Old Office Max Bldg.
2255 Macarthur
Alexandria, La. 71301
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

St. John The Baptist Parish
160 Belle Terre
La Place, La. 70068
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

Washington Parish
Hillcrest Baptist Church
2201 East Washington Street
Franklinton, La. 70438
9 a. m. to 7 p. m.

N.O. Fire Department preparing for residents' re-entry

Wednesday, 2:43 p.m.

The New Orleans Fire Department said in a news release Wednesday that it is checking fire hydrants throughout the city to make sure that they can deliver sufficient water volume and pressure to support fire fighting.

The department is also inspecting buildings in the Central Business District to verify that alarm systems, sprinkler and standpipe systems, access and evacuation systems are in place to allow safe reoccupation.

As electric power and natural gas utilities are restored to neighborhoods and people return, it is important to remember that the sources of potential ignition multiply. Potential hazards are damaged appliances, gas leaks, the careless use of candles and use of barbecue grills for cooking.

Also, generators used indoors can produce harmful carbon monoxide and could also be a potential fire hazard when place to close to combustibles.

The New Orleans FireDepartment remains prepared to respond, with continued support from firefighters from New York, Illinois and other firefighting personnel and equipment from around the country.

Shots offered at Jeff. Health Unit

Wednesday, 2:15 p.m.

Childhood immunizations, as well as a limited number of shots for
adults, will be offered Thursday at the Jefferson Parish Health Unit at
111 N. Causeway Blvd. in Metairie.

Shots for children include routine immunizations, such as those for
measles, mumps and rubella, while those available for adults include
inoculations agains tetanus and hepatitis A and B, state Department of
Health and Hospitals spokeswoman Kristen Meyer said.

The clinic will be open for immunizations only, she said, and others
will be announced as they are available.

More information is available at (504) 838-5100.

Jeff Transit resumes some bus routes

Wednesday, 1:15 p.m.
Jefferson Transit resumed limited service along some bus routes today.

The routes include: Avondale, Belle Chasse, Lapalco Boulevard, Oakdale, Terrytown and West Bank Expressway on the West Bank and Airport, Causeway Boulevard, Kenner Local and Veterans Boulevard in East Jefferson. The hours of operation will be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in East Jefferson and from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the West Bank.

Until the New Orleans Central Business District is operational, Jefferson Transit buses will not go into the city of New Orleans. Routes that usually travel downtown will terminate either at the parish line or at the Wilty Terminal in Gretna.

The offices of the Mobility Impaired Transit Service were severely damaged, and the resumption of that service is delayed until further notice.

For information, call 818-1077 in East Jefferson or 367-7433 on the West Bank.

La. death toll rises to 896

Wednesday, 11:16 a.m.

The Louisiana death toll from Hurricane Katrina rose to 896 Wednesday, state officials said.

Of the dead, 712 are being kept at a makeshift morgue in St. Gabriel and the other bodies are in coroners’ offices in 13 parishes.

East Baton Rouge Parish had the most bodies, 72, while Jefferson Parish had the second most with 30.

Information on business assistance offered to Jefferson companies

Wednesday, 10:20 a.m.

Local companies can receive information about business recovery assistance and financing options during a meeting Thursday organized by the Jefferson Economic Development Commission, the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Jefferson Business Council.

The free Jefferson Back to Business Briefing will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, first floor Bayou Room, 2150 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner.

Representatives from JEDCO, the Small Business Administration and other organizations will address concerns and answer questions. For more information, visit

Blanco asks Congress for rebuilding help

WASHINGTON (AP) - Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco asked Congress today for help in rebuilding her devastated state, saying Hurricanes Katrina and Rita "knocked us down but they did not knock us out."
Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Blanco in her opening statement did not mention former FEMA director Michael Brown, who on Tuesday had blamed state and local officials in Louisiana for not responding appropriately to the storm.
"We are looking forward, not backward, " Blanco said.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley also were testifying before the committee via teleconference hookup from their state capitols. The Senate panel is working on a long-term tax bill to help revitalize the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast.
Blanco said 40 percent of Louisiana's businesses were lost or damaged in the storm and said the state's most pressing need is jobs.
"That's what we need," she said. "That's exactly what we need in the face of this suffering and hardship -- jobs."

Jefferson Parish school district announces sites for displaced students

Wednesday, 9:53 p.m.

With its registration of students in motion this week,
the Jefferson Parish public school district has released a list
of schools that will receive students from outside

Largely spared from the destruction that claimed numerous schools in Orleans,
Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, Jefferson is
eyeing a reopening of schools next week and will
register students through Saturday at nine locations
throughout the parish.

The registration is for students from outside parishes
or those who now live in a different section of
Jefferson Parish due to Hurricane Katrina. For more
information, call 1-866-563-6559.

According to documents obtained at one of the sites,
students from these areas will be assigned throughout the parish
as follows:

East Bank of Orleans Parish: Ella Dolhonde Elementary
in Metairie; J.D. Meisler Middle in Metairie; and
Riverdale High School in Jefferson.

Orleans Parish magnet school students: Riverdale High
School in Jefferson; Metairie Academy; and V.C. Haynes
Middle in Metairie.

Algiers: George Cox Elementary in Gretna; Livaudias
Middle in Terrytown; and West Jefferson High in Harvey.

Plaquemines Parish: George Cox Elementary in Gretna;
Livaudais Middle in Terrytown; and West Jefferson High
in Harvey.

St. Bernard Parish: Ella Dolhonde Elementary in
Metairie; J.D. Meisler Middle in Metairie; and
Riverdale High in Jefferson.

East Bank of St. Charles Parish: Audubon Elementary in
Kenner; Ralph Bunche Middle in Metairie; and Bonnabel
High in Kenner.

West Bank of St. Charles Parish: Live Oak Manor
Elementary in Westwego; Henry Ford Middle in Avondale;
and L.W. Higgins High in Marrero.

Some Jefferson Transit lines running

Jefferson Transit resumed bus service on nine of its east bank and West Bank lines today. Service into New Orleans is not yet available. The routes and hours of operation are:

East bank (service from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.):
E1 - Veterans
E2 - Airport
E3 - Kenner Local
E5 - Causeway Blvd.

West Bank (service from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.):
W1 - Avondale
W2 - Westbank Expressway
W3 - Lapalco
W7 - Oakdale
W8 - Terrytown
W9 - Belle Chasse Hwy

Ridership will be monitored and service will be adjusted based on ridership and demand for service. For route details, go to, or call (504) 818-1077 for east bank service or (504) 367-7433 for West Bank service.