Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 17:40 UK

Staying put as Gustav bears down

Aileen Bennett and Sean Ryder
Aileen and her husband, Sean, have decided to stay put in Lafayette

Some Britons living in and around New Orleans have decided to ignore orders to evacuate from the path of Hurricane Gustav.

James Lewis, 38, originally from London, is landlord of the Crown and Anchor English pub in New Orleans. He says he is determined not to see a repeat of the looting that destroyed his business after hurricane Katrina.

Aileen Bennett, 43, also from London, has lived for the last five years with her husband Sean in Lafayette, about 177km (110 miles) west of New Orleans. She says she is focusing on what they have, not on what they might lose.

And Alan Pond, originally from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and who now lives in New Orleans, believes the hurricane will not live up to the "hype" in the media.

JAMES LEWIS, 38, LANDLORD CROWN AND ANCHOR PUB

I just have a lot of friends here in the neighbourhood who are staying and the pub is a community centre for the neighbourhood.

[Last time] I was forced by a friend to leave at the last minute - I wasn't going to. We snuck back in as soon as [hurricane] Rita had passed. That was three weeks afterwards and it looked like the day afterwards.

The ceilings were down, no roof, the kitchen wall was halfway down the street and the damage and destruction done by the looters. I'd only bought the pub a month before.

All the booze was gone, the place was pretty much wide open, so people just helped themselves.

James Lewis
James Lewis boarded up his pub to prevent looting

We're all very prepared here, it's the old adage - prepare for the worst, hope for the best. We're not a bunch of idiots staying here.

Make sure that you've got food, water, ice packs in the freezer, board up the windows, make sure you remove any debris so that it doesn't turn into flying debris.

Make sure you've got a hammer or an axe or a crowbar, you know, the usual stuff, to make sure if the water goes up dramatically you are not stuck in the roof.

But err on the side of caution of course - particularly if you are going to be by yourself, absolutely, get out, don't be the only idiot staying there.

[There is a real] nervous energy, you could feel it start to go up last night in the pub. Everyone runs on adrenaline for the next four days.

Of course I don't actually enjoy it, you would have to be psychotic to be like that, my psychologist would come over and give me a smack if I said that.

But we've got a wonderful community here, everybody pulled together as a community and stuck our heads down.

I opened up within 24 hours of being back, and we were packed for a month afterwards with first response and National Guard, we met some wonderful people.

What would make me leave? I'm not sure. I'm a bit stubborn like that. I really don't know. This is my life.

Mr Lewis said his pub's website would be made available as a message board during the hurricane.

AILEEN BENNET, 43, LAFAYETTE

We were here for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita (both 2005). We got a tree through the car port in Rita.

The mood here is really mixed. Some people are panicking and getting out, others are not buying into the panic and are more relaxed.

We are staying unless it is mandatory to leave. At the moment there is a voluntary evacuation.

As far as preparations are concerned, we are going to clear up the yard and put away everything that could become a missile.

We have stocked up on food and water. We are boarding up the windows and filling sandbags.

I must admit, I woke up at three in the morning thinking 'are we doing the right thing?'. But for now we are staying put.

There are people in the world who live every day without electricity, air conditioning, endless supplies of food and shelter.

We are trying to focus on what we have rather than what we could lose.

ALAN POND, RETIRED, NEW ORLEANS

I don't think the US authorities have any choice but to do what they are doing, but the data on rainfall that I'm seeing on Gustav doesn't live up to the hysteria I see in the media.

I moved here from Aylesbury almost 10 years ago, so I was in New Orleans for Tropical Storm Cindy, Hurricane Ivan and stayed through Hurricane Katrina. I've seen it all before.

Alan and Candace Pond
Alan Pond and his wife Candace are seeing out the storm in New Orleans

The US media is adding to this hysteria and New Orleans' mayor, Ray Nagin, has been forced (by 100,000 people in New Orleans who have no access to 'instant' transport) to echo this hype, and after his performance during Katrina, he has no choice but to stress the importance of evacuation. For him it's a case of 'damned if you do, and damned if you don't'.

I've recently driven around the city - it's deserted, apart from the usual unsavoury characters lurking in doorways who always stay behind at times like these waiting their chance for chaos and profit.

My wife Candace is a nurse and has been working round the clock preparing nursing home patients for evacuation. They have now left and she's home, finally catching up on much needed sleep.

I've taken all the necessary precautions - but my house didn't flood when then levees broke with Katrina, so I think my wife and I will be fine. We have gallons of water, food, batteries, calor gas, lamps, generator and a cook stove. And from previous experience, lots of insect repellent!

I also have a shotgun by the door and a pistol holster on my belt. The kind of characters I saw on my drive round the town wait til the hurricane hits and then go looting. I'm concerned, but I'm not taking any chances either.



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