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5 Die in New Orleans' Senior Apartments

City forms teams to search hot buildings after some residents were trapped
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2021 4:30 PM CDT
New Orleans Crews Search for Seniors Left Behind
The remains of damaged homes are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on Monday in Grand Isle, La.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(Newser) – Officials in New Orleans are thoroughly inspecting senior living apartments in the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida after finding people living in buildings without working generators, trapping residents in wheelchairs in dark, sweltering upper floors. Five people died in the private buildings Sunday, and hundreds have already been evacuated, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday. The coroner's office is investigating whether the deaths will be attributed to the hurricane, the AP reports, which struck land nine days before. The managers of some of the homes for seniors have disappeared without adequately taking care of the residents, City Council member Kristin Palmer said at a news conference.

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"They're hiding under the loophole of 'independent living,'" Palmer said. "It's not independent living if there's no power and you’re in a wheelchair on the fourth floor." The city is creating teams of workers from the health, safety and permits, code enforcement and other departments. Their first focus is to make sure the senior homes are safe and evacuate people if necessary, Cantrell said. After that, management will be held accountable, and the city will likely add requirements that include facilities having emergency agreements in place with contractors who will make sure generator power is available at the sites, the mayor said.

Crews have restored power to nearly 70% of greater New Orleans and nearly all of Baton Rouge after Hurricane Ida, but outside the large cities, getting lights back on is a complex challenge that will take almost all of September, utility executives said Monday. It's going to involve air boats to get into the swamps and marshes to string lines and repair the most remote of about 22,000 power poles that Ida blew down when it came ashore on Aug. 29 as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland, Entergy Louisiana President and CEO Phillip May said. More than 530,000 customers still don't have power in Louisiana, just under half of the peak when Ida struck eight days ago. “It's going to be a rebuild, not a repair,” May said.

(Read more Hurricane Ida stories.)

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