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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Evacuees return to see damage
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, New Orleans

Morrero resident Vince Lecco
Vince Lecco's wife, a nurse, stayed behind to help at a local hospital
As he opens the door of his family home in August Avenue, the first thing that hits Vince Lecco is the stench.

Food has rotted in the fridge and freezer, and it needs to be buried in the garden.

Around the house lie the signs of a hurried exit: a washing basket overturned, dirty crockery in the sink. To his relief, the guns are still in their strongbox.

"It is an eerie feeling coming back home," says Vince.

"There used to be an archway of trees on the road outside - you can see they are gone.

"The steeples of churches are down. The place looks entirely different."

Agonising wait

Marrero, in Jefferson parish, is full of streets like August Avenue, avenues of flimsy wooden buildings now filled with fallen trees and downed telegraph poles.

It has escaped huge flood damage, but much work will need to be done here - without water, power or light.

Most of the Leccos fled to Houston. Vince, his children aged nine and 10, and his parents all left, but his wife - a nurse - stayed to help at a local hospital.

Morrero resident Chuck Abbott
"Heart-breaking for everyone," says Chuck Abbott
With phone lines down, it has been an agonising time apart.

"I spoke to her today for the first time," says Vince, with tears in his eyes.

"We have been so worried for her - she has missed the kids unbelievably."

Across the street, Darlene Ruth has refused to leave, but says she is still in shock.

Listening to radio reports makes it hard to know what to believe, she says.

"We thought there was a gang on the way to loot and kill us all. We feel abandoned," she says.

The family has a generator and neighbours who left told them to raid their homes for food.

"My son came out of the house yesterday with a mobile phone, he had my father on the line," she says.

"It was the first time we had heard he was OK. That has been the hardest part - the not knowing."

'A new beginning'

A few blocks away, Chuck Abbott is trying to clear the debris from his driveway.

I've been to Vietnam - I know how to survive
Philip Turner, New Orleans resident
"It is devastating to see the damage," he says. "Heart-breaking for everyone. They say we will be like this for months."

Elsewhere in the city, a struggle goes on to impose a little normality amid the chaos.

In the historic French Quarter - which escaped much of the flooding that afflicted areas just a few hundred yards away - Voodoo Bar owner Gilligan is wiping down a fridge stacked with bottles of warm beer.

He offers up a toast to "a new beginning".

On Sunday, a defiantly exuberant parade took place on Bourbon Street. A dozen revellers dressed to the nines said they were determined to show that life goes on.

Across New Orleans, the adversity has forged a real community spirit among those determined to stay.

Philip Turner, 62, says he is going shopping. He knows a shop where tinned food is still on the shelves, waiting to be claimed.

"I've been to Vietnam," he says. "I know how to survive."


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