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New Orleans Suburb Covered In Slime Faces Uncertain Future

A street in the northern part of New Orleans remains under floodwaters 19 September 2005, three weeks after hurricane Katrina hit the city. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin announced that because of a storm gathering off the coast of Florida he was suspending his plan to allow some residents to return to their hurricane-ravaged city this week. 'We are suspending all re-entry into the city of New Orleans as of this moment,' Nagin told reporters. AFP photo by Menahem Kahana.

Arabi, Louisiana (AFP) Sep 19, 2005
Residents take tetanus shots, strap on rubber boots and cover their faces with dust masks to enter their slimy homes in this uninhabitable New Orleans suburb that will close to the public this month.

While officials in neighboring New Orleans are allowing a first batch of residents to resettle on Monday, St Bernard Parish, were Arabi is located, will close to the public on September 30 and much of it may have to be razed.

This parish's 65,000 residents were forced to flee before and after Hurricane Katrina slammed the US Gulf Coast on August 29, filling their homes in flood waters that have since receded but left smelly, dark mud.

Since Saturday, residents have been allowed to check on their homes during the day and retrieve whatever they could before the end of the month as officials decide whether to demolish part of the parish.

But they were warned to take extra precautions, as authorities fear the mud and water are contaminated with bacteria, including E. coli. They were urged not to bring children to avoid exposing them to health risks.

Cindy Lindhein, 53, and her husband Emile Buisson, 54, took a tetanus shot and wore rubber boots and gloves before going into their pet grooming business. They had to take careful steps through a slippery floor covered in malodorous, black and brown sludge.

"I've gotta get out of here, my eyes are burning," said Lindhein, 53.

The couple found 800 dollars in cash that they had left behind and which miraculously survived the flood. With a dwindling bank account, they badly needed the money.

They then walked one block to Buisson's childhood home, where only his mom lived before the storm.

Outside, the grass was grey from the mud that dried under Louisiana's scorching heat. Inside, the furniture was tossed around the living room and kitchen by the water. The ceiling was gone. In one room a Jesus icon still hung on a wall.

"Oh my god," Lindhein said repeatedly as she dodged broken furniture. "Sweet Jesus."

The couple made another miraculous find: a silverware set that Buisson's 86-year-old and cancer-stricken mother desperately hoped to retrieve. The spoons and knives would need a thorough cleaning, however, as they were covered in nasty soot.

Back outside, leaves rustling in the wind were the only thing that broke the silence in the deserted neighborhood, with its moon-like landscape of dried grey mud. Lindhein sat on a box in front of the house, wiping her tired, sweaty face with a cloth, contemplating her future.

"I don't think we're coming back," she said.

Many St. Bernard Parish residents may be forced to find a new place to live. Authorities estimate that three in four homes, or more, will have to be razed, according to the Times-Picayune, a Louisiana daily.

Parish councilman Craig Taffaro said local officials are evaluating how much of the area can be saved, but he refused to put a figure on how much will be destroyed.

"There's going to be a significant amount of homes that are probably not sustainable," he told AFP, adding that it would take at least a "few months" to clean up the mess. "Most were under water for a considerable amount of time."

In the meantime, residents checking on their properties in the next two weeks face health risks.

Navy Captain John Williams, a doctor whose troops were giving tetanus shots to residents in a tent off a main road, said his clinic had treated up to 40 people Saturday for cuts, puncture wounds and heat exhaustion.

The Red Cross also deployed mental health workers to counsel distressed residents.

"We try to help and comfort them after they find out they have no home," said Catherine Butler, a Red Cross worker. "We try to take care of everybody."

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Metals Giant Rusal Faces Uzbek Anger Over Expansion Plan In Tajikistan
Tashkent (AFP) Sep 19, 2005
Uzbek health officials urged Russian aluminium giant Rusal on Monday to rethink expansion plans for a Soviet-era plant in neighbouring Tajikistan, saying pollution threatened the health of a densely populated area of Uzbekistan.

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