Few Requests for Help With Graves Damaged by Hurricane Laura

By Janet McConnaughey | October 5, 2020

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Laura damaged nearly 1,900 graves in Louisiana, but fewer than 25 families have asked for help with them, officials say.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office has surveyed 127 cemeteries in nine parishes, and found about 1,880 damaged graves in 89 of them, spokesman Cory Dennis said in an email Friday.

Damage included about 50 caskets swept from tombs by the hurricane that hit land Aug. 26 in southwest Louisiana, he said.

“We have had less than 25 inquiries,” he wrote.

In a news release Sept. 25, the Attorney General’s Office asked affected families to call or email.

“The Louisiana Department of Justice has been leading the State’s cemetery recovery efforts,” it said. Those, it said, have ranged “from locating, gathering, and identifying displaced caskets and vaults, damaged tombstones, and even human remains to getting them to their appropriate places.”

People who need help finding or fixing a grave damaged by Hurricane Laura should call 225-326-6056 or email cemeterytaskforce(at)ag.louisiana.gov, Landry said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency can help pay for fixing graves and returning caskets in one of the 20 Louisiana parishes declared major disaster areas because of the storm, a news release said. Oct. 27 is the deadline for applying for all FEMA assistance with damage from Hurricane Laura in Louisiana.

FEMA said such aid can include money for transferring remains and for damaged caskets, containers, vaults, urns, headstones or markers. FEMA can also help with costs for identifying and for reinterring them.

FEMA spokespeople in Texas did not immediately respond to a phone message and email asking if there was also such damage and aid available there.

The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has checked cemeteries in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jackson, Natchitoches, Rapides, Vermilion and Winn parishes, Dennis said.

The federal disaster declaration for individual aid also includes Acadia, Caddo, Grant, Jefferson Davis, La Salle, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita, Sabine, St. Landry, Union, and Vernon parishes.

The state Department of Justice “certifies to FEMA that the damages the applicant claims occurred actually did,” then works with the family on repair logistics, Dennis said.

“That can range from replacing a damaged tombstone or (something) more complicated like a displaced casket. In these cases, we assist the family in working through the process of replacing the casket and ensuring their loved one receives a proper interment,” he wrote.

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