'Everything I own was in that trailer – now it's gone'

 

It was 4.30am when Samuel George realised that the levees had broken; a tide of muddy water started seeping into the living area of his single-storey trailer home in the New Orleans suburb of Braithwaite.

With his electricity knocked out, George, 53, stumbled to the front door. But it wouldn't budge. Trapped in the darkness, with a hurricane roaring outside, water levels rising and no obvious escape route, he began to fear for his life. "I kind of panicked," he said. "When I finally did get the door open a little bit, the first thing I saw was my porch floating away. That was what had been blocking it. The water was initially around my ankles, but within a couple of minutes it was coming to my waist. So I went outside, and climbed up a tree onto my roof."

As day broke, Mr George witnessed a scene of devastation. His entire home town, built a stone's throw from the Mississippi, roughly 20 miles downstream from central New Orleans, was under 12 feet of water. Residents like him, who had stayed behind to ride out Hurricane Isaac, were marooned in attics and on roofs. "I could see my neighbour. But my cousin and her boyfriend, who live over the road, they never made it to their roof. So I'm certain they're dead. I'm almost positive. The water was all the way up to the top of the building, and no one had got outside, so I don't see how they could have survived."

George spent seven hours outside, praying that his perch would remain above water as gales and torrential rain continued to lash New Orleans. By the time rescuers arrived in a boat to take him to safety, he was cold, wet and exhausted. "The storm went on so long. It was completely weird," he said. "At one point, a deer swam up and climbed on to my roof. Then an armadillo did, too. The boat that eventually rescued me took the animals away, too. I was in kind of a daze. Everything I own was in that trailer. And now it's gone."

Yesterday, 24 hours after his ordeal began, George woke up on a camp bed at a YMCA in the town of Belle Chasse. With him were roughly 100 other refugees from Plaquemines Parish, a semi-rural district that appears to have been hardest hit by the category-one storm.

Hurricane Isaac, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm and was sweeping northwards into the state of Arkansas yesterday, was thankfully no Hurricane Katrina – which made landfall exactly seven years earlier, devastating swaths of New Orleans and killing more than 1,800 people.

This week, by contrast, has so far seen just two confirmed storm-related deaths (though more are likely to emerge as the storm waters recede). Flood defences recently added to central New Orleans prevented major residential areas from flooding. Damage to the city centre – which experienced powerful winds and torrential rain for roughly 36 straight hours – appears to be cosmetic.

Across Lake Pontchartrain, to the north of the city, there has been localised flooding, thanks to torrential rain (up to 20in in places), and several thousand homes were evacuated in the town of Slidell yesterday. But to most residents, the biggest inconvenience has been a dawn-to-dusk curfew to deter looting, and ongoing power cuts, which have affected more than 700,000 people.

That was scant consolation to the residents of Plaquemines Parish. Some of their neighbourhoods experienced worse damage than during Katrina and waters were still around 10ft deep in Braithwaite last night.

Terry Rutherford, of the local Sheriff's department, told The Independent that roughly 800 evacuees were now being housed in local school halls and government buildings. "If this had been a normal hurricane which moved in and blasted us for a couple of hours, we would have been fine," he said.

"But Isaac just sat there and we got the worst of it. It was incredibly slow moving, and that's what caused us trouble."

Mr Rutherford's officers used boats to rescue around 100 people – including Mr George – from roofs of homes on the eastern side of the Mississippi where levees were breached. The remaining residents of emergency shelters have been evacuated as a precaution from low-lying areas on the western side of the river.

For many, the experience raises ugly memories. "After Katrina, our town was completely devastated," said Vania Ragas, a 21-year-old student from Buras-Triumph, on the Gulf Coast, who spent the night on a camp bed at Belle Chasse High School.

"There was nothing left of our home... so this time, I'm just praying that I have a home left to go back to."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders