Catholic Charities of Acadiana and other partners in the region are continuing efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Ida in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, spokesman Ben Broussard said Monday.
“We have been sending teams and equipping organized groups for two weeks,” he said. “Every day or every other day, we are tackling immediate response needs.”
That includes debris removal and chainsaw work to enable families to safely move back into their homes. The needs are immense, Broussard said, and the effort will continue for many months. Ida made landfall Aug. 29.
Tarp crews from Acadiana went to the affected areas Sunday in an effort to cover roofs with temporary protection as Tropical Storm Nicholas approaches the Gulf of Mexico coastline.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Southeast Louisiana several times this week to serve with our sister agency, Catholic Charities of Houma-Thibodaux, and provide direct support during this critical time of response to the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Ida in the Bayou region,” Kim Boudreaux, CEO of Catholic Charities of Acadiana, said in an open letter on the Diocese of Lafayette's website.
“The human suffering that I witnessed this week in Southeast Louisiana is some of the worst I have seen on U.S. soil,” Boudreaux, who has done mission work in India, said.
Broussard said in Lafourche and Terrebonne there is, for the most part, no running water, gasoline or street signs. Entergy is the primary supplier of electricity and maps showed 65 percent of Lafourche had no power, 72 percent of Terrebonne. Water and sewer are out.
Most people cannot flush their own toilets, he said.
Broussard said assisting victims of Hurricane Laura, which hit southwestern Louisiana in August 2020 in Lake Charles was easier last year because the community was more accessible to those offering help.
But farflung, rural areas were particularly hard hit in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes and their needs demand greater help. Catholic Charities of Acadiana and partners most recently have been to St. Hillary in Raceland, and Galliano, near the coast.
Broussard said of particular importance in helping the two parishes is coordinating the relief efforts.
Boudreaux said in an open letter on the Diocese of Lafayette website that, “In the first few weeks following a major disaster, response is extremely complex to navigate. There is little to no running water, food, electricity, internet, cell service, hospitals or bathrooms.
“Traffic is often backed up for many miles, while there is minimal availability of fuel in the region. The heat index has reached over 100 degrees every day this week as homeowners and volunteers work to remove trees from homes and tarp roofs without the reprieve of air conditioning.
"We are still operating in the context of a pandemic as Louisiana continues to experience high numbers of COVID infection rates. Our crews lack communication while working in the hardest hit areas often adding delay and frustration to efforts to bring relief.”
Broussard said people who intend to help should contact Catholic Charities or other, recognized social service agencies that help during emergency conditions, like those presented in Lafourche or Terrebonne. Taking off to help without contacting recognized agencies could hamper the response or make it less effective.
He said last year a well-intentioned organization sent 100 cooked meals to Lake Charles to serve to people in need but could not find people to receive the goods. The food went to waste. If people send aid without pre-clearing their intentions, they risk providing help in an uncoordinated fashion.
There is nothing more frustrating than deciding to send goods or materials to an area only to arrive and find an 18-wheeler there delivering the same aid, Broussard said.
“Our concern is that all the aid will show up in one place. People might stop, certain that they’ve reached the people most in need, and not get to locations elsewhere that need the help more,” he said.
He said that local businesses like Broussard & David law firm and the City Club of River Ranch have prepared or provided meals for distribution to the affected areas. Most of the helping businesses work through Catholic Charities.
Those who want to help should access Catholic Charities of Acadiana -- http://catholiccharitiesacadiana.org/ -- and click on “want to help.”