Hundreds of residents were evacuated to the warehouse up of Hurricane Ida. Reports of squalor soon followed.
Sept. 3, 2021, 2:38 p.m. ET
INDEPENDENCE, La. — Empty wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and soiled look masks sat piled extracurricular of a warehouse connected Friday morning, the lone remaining signs that much than 800 of New Orleans’s astir susceptible radical had been bused determination arsenic a almighty hurricane tore done — and past rescued from squalor this week by authorities officials who vowed to investigate.
Residents of 7 privately tally nursing homes had been evacuated to the warehouse up of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall successful Louisiana arsenic an aggravated Category 4 tempest connected Sunday. Complaints astir unhealthy conditions soon followed. Four radical died there, including 3 whose deaths were classified by authorities officials arsenic storm-related.
Officials person identified those 3 victims arsenic a 59-year-old pistillate from Jefferson Parish and 2 men, a 52-year-old from Orleans Parish and a 77-year-old from Terrebonne Parish.
The nursing homes from which the residents were initially evacuated are owned by Bob G. Dean Jr., a Baton Rouge businessman. Efforts to scope Mr. Dean were not instantly successful. But in an interrogation with WAFB, a section tv station, helium contended that the deaths were acceptable.
“We lone had 5 deaths wrong the six days, and usually with 850 radical you’ll person a mates a day, truthful we did truly bully with taking attraction of people,” Mr. Dean told the tv station.
It was not instantly wide whether Mr. Dean was referring to different decease astatine 1 of his nursing homes successful summation to the 4 radical who died aft being transferred to the warehouse successful Independence.
He besides contended successful the tv interrogation that authorities investigators had illegally entered the warehouse tract connected Tuesday earlier they were expelled.
“The Fourth Amendment says that they person to person a warrant to travel connected the backstage property, overmuch little prehend persons oregon properties, truthful they came connected illegally,” Mr. Dean said.
Mr. Dean has owned and operated nursing homes successful Louisiana for decades and has accumulated a agelong past of disputes implicit information issues and ineligible battles implicit his operations.
In a 1998 episode akin to this week’s tragedy, 2 nursing location residents died aft being evacuated connected buses without air-conditioning to a Baton Rouge warehouse owned by Mr. Dean during the attack of Hurricane Georges. He appealed a $1,500 authorities good related to the decease during that evacuation of an 86-year-old pistillate who had a bosom attack; helium succeeded successful lowering the good to $1,000 erstwhile a justice determined his institution was not liable for her death.
Outside the warehouse successful Independence connected Friday, Louisiana State Police troopers rolled successful and retired successful SUVs and enactment up yellowish portion to support radical out. Cardboard boxes remained dispersed crossed the bedewed crushed adjacent to 1 exit, arsenic if to make a adust way done the mud for those leaving the facility. Labels connected the broken-down boxes indicated that they were for infirmary beds, easy-to-make oats, and frozen bread. They sat beside a half-empty quart of milk, bluish surgical gloves and crumpled bottles of water.
Many neighbors questioned wherefore the nursing location residents had been brought to what turned retired to beryllium 1 of the hardest-hit regions successful the state.
In neighborhoods astir the warehouse, the winds from Ida had blown the siding disconnected mobile homes, pushed ample trees done roofs and knocked branches onto powerfulness lines, sending splayed electrical wires crossed streets. A motion welcoming visitors to Independence was surrounded by trees snapped adjacent the basal of their trunks.
Longtime residents said the warehouse had erstwhile been utilized arsenic a stocking mill and aboriginal was utilized to manufacture aerosol cans earlier mostly going dark, though they said it was inactive sometimes utilized to store exigency supplies.
People who sat successful driveways and connected porches successful the sweltering vigor adjacent said they had nary thought that hundreds of nursing location residents had been bused to the warehouse until Wednesday, erstwhile dozens of buses lined up to instrumentality them to hospitals aft authorities officials began to fearfulness that the conditions wrong were hazardous.
A artifact distant from the warehouse, Lillian Danna, 92, who lives alone, stuck retired the tempest successful the aforesaid location she has lived successful since the 1950s. As she utilized a hose to wide debris from her driveway connected Friday, she described discovering that the tempest had torn done her neighborhood. She awoke connected Monday aft the tempest erstwhile it was inactive acheronian and with nary electricity. She grabbed the flashlight she keeps by her furniture and tried to spot her backmost yard, wherever she has a shed, but it was excessively hard to spot clearly.
“I couldn’t spot the shed,” she said, “but I knew thing was wrong.”
When daylight came, she discovered that a ample histrion had crushed the tiny structure, leaving her devastated astir the harm but thanking God that it hadn’t deed her house. It was hours earlier the upwind relented, allowing her to yet unfastened her door.
“If it had fallen connected my house, it would person astir apt killed me,” she said.
A fewer nights later, she was confused by the dozens of vehicles — shuttles, RVs and buses — that packed the neighborhood, keeping neighbors awake done the nighttime arsenic the nursing location residents were taken to safety.