Cemetery task force working to help assist families whose relatives’ graves disturbed by storms

Cemetery task force working to help assist families whose relatives’ graves disturbed by storms
This open grave is from Cameron Parish (Source: Ryan Seidemann, Asst. AG)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -It’s heartbreaking when a major storm event happens causing damage to graves and sometimes human remains are are released.

Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Ryan Seidemann is Chairman of the Louisiana Cemetery Response Task Force.

He says the destruction at cemeteries left by Hurricanes Laura and Delta is at least as large as Katrina and Rita combined.

“We’re dealing with substantially more cemeteries impacted, substantially more individual graves impacted. We have not yet even completed the assessment of all the sites, there are so many. We visited over 200 cemeteries in the impact area and have recorded over 2000 impacted graves and they range from Cameron Parish in the south all the way up to Morehouse Parish at the Arkansas line,” said Seidemann.

He says most of the disturbed graves are in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes

“Cameron took the brunt of it as far as storm surge and wind and so that’s where you see the traditional Louisiana displaced caskets problem. Calcasieu got a lot more wind damage and so that’s where we have fallen trees that have smashed open tombs, knocked over tombstones and things like that,” he said.

He says they want to help families who are dealing with damaged graves.

“It’s a hard time for them. Because you know in these disaster areas they’re not only dealing with their own problems, as folks who have lost homes are businesses, but also they’re dealing with this idea that their loved one’s graves have been damaged and that can be real hurtful,” he said.

As well, if someone spots a casket or vault out in the marsh, he asks that they pinpoint the location with the GPS in their phone and contact the cemetery task force.

Attorney General Jeff Landry says the meetings are to assist families whose loved ones are buried in cemeteries damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

“It is very important that the damaged tombstones and displaced caskets, vaults, and remains are returned to their appropriate places,” said Landry. “My office has been active in this mission since Laura passed and we are committed to properly and respectfully taking care of Louisiana’s deceased.”

“Working to achieve that goal, we want to encourage anyone impacted to attend one of our informational meetings,” continued AG Landry. “We will be joined by officials from FEMA who can assist with the paperwork required for the reburial and repair of graves damaged by Hurricanes Laura or Delta.”

Attendees to the following meetings should register in advance for “funeral assistance” by calling FEMA at 800-621-3362, visiting www.disasterassistance.gov, or using the FEMA Mobile App:

Meetings were already held Tuesday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Founder’s Hall (2031 Opelousas Street in Lake Charles) and St. Mary of the Lake Parish Hall (11054 La Highway 384 in Lake Charles)

Additional meetings are as follows:

Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Location: Immaculate Conception Church Fellowship Hall (2700 Maplewood Drive in Sulphur)

Date: Thursday, October 22, 2020

Time: 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Location: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (900 Convention Blvd in New Orleans)

Date: Friday, October 23, 2020

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Location: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (900 Convention Blvd in New Orleans)

AG Landry also reminded those needing assistance who are unable to attend one of the aforementioned meetings that they may contact his office by phone at 225-326-6056 or by email at cemeterytaskforce@ag.louisiana.gov.

Here is other information provided by FEMA:

To date, FEMA has put almost $175 million in the hands of Laura survivors, $119 million for housing assistance and $56 million for other needs assistance. FEMA has registered 212,867 households. Additionally, the SBA has already approved more than $323 million in low interest loans to help Louisiana hurricane survivors recover.

For survivors of Hurricane Delta, FEMA has registered more than 15,108 households for federal assistance.

Survivors of Hurricane Laura have exactly one week from today to register for FEMA assistance. Federal assistance may include help for temporary housing, rental assistance and repair or replacement of damaged property, and to help with other expenses such as medical care, childcare, and funeral services. The last day to register is Oct. 27.

Louisiana residents who suffered losses from Hurricane Delta (DR-4570) are encouraged to register for disaster assistance with FEMA as soon as possible. Eligible survivors must live in the following parishes (for Delta assistance): Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion Parishes. The deadline for Hurricane Delta survivors to register for FEMA disaster assistance is Dec. 15.

Reminder: If you previously applied for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Laura, you will have to register again for Delta assistance. First, contact your insurance company to file your storm-damage claims and document the damage with photos.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved more than $323 million in low interest loans to help Louisiana hurricane survivors recover.

If you have a story you’d like Theresa to look into send her an email or call her at 337-377-6436.

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