After devastating flooding in Louisiana last week that killed at least 13 and damaged over 60,000 homes, recovery efforts are underway. Local residents with boats, known as the Cajun Navy, are taking the lead in the tremendous endeavor.
“The true Cajun Navy is the everyday Joe that had a full-time job and had a boat at his house and then launched his boat at the side of the highway…we are a people that stick together, take care of our own,” said Warren Holmes, a resident of Ascension Parish.
Volunteers make up 90 percent of the Cajun Navy, he said. It receives requests for assistance from social media, including Facebook. The volunteers also coordinate with National Guard, police, and FEMA officials, launching from central locations to areas in need of help.
Cajun Navy volunteers have been assisting not only with rescues, but also with salvage efforts in the wake of the disastrous flooding. In some homes, they recovered clothing, gutted bathrooms, and removed debris.
The Louisiana National Guard, the Coast Guard, and local police have also mobilized to rescue tens of thousands of stranded citizens.
Cajun Navy, Other Residents Just Getting Started With Recovery Efforts
During and after the flooding, homes sat in as much as six feet of water. Garage doors were bent in backwards, sandbags scattered in front of homes, useless after the water arrived.
Sometimes the people rescued brought along their pets. Other times, the Cajun Navy had to rescue people who were restricted to wheelchairs—a daunting complication on the small boats used by the civilian rescuers.
Flooding first struck the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area on August 12th and caught many residents completely by surprise. For some locals, it brought back painful memories of Hurricane Katrina some 11 years prior.
Last week, President Obama authorized relief funds and declared a state of emergency in 12 parishes. He also called in the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist with rescue, recovery and salvage efforts.
The President was, however, criticized in a Louisiana newspaper for continuing to vacation in Martha’s Vineyard instead of traveling to the flood zones.