Caskets filled with human remains are still scattered around a Louisiana town weeks after Hurricane Ida ripped through the region as it made it’s way inland.
Families have lived there for generations in the predominately- black community of Ironton, which has a population of 175 and sits on the west bank of the Mississippi River in lower Plaquemines Parish about 25 miles southeast of New Orleans, according to CNN.
And nearly four weeks after the category four storm devastated the area, Haywood Johnson, the pastor of the town’s St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, says the caskets he personally buried have been carried away from their final resting places by flood waters and are still spread throughout the community.
Johnson pointed out to a pair of caskets, a father and daughter, which had ended up beside each other in someone’s front yard; with another casket currently sits upside down against a nearby levee.
Caskets filled with human remains are still scattered around a Louisiana town weeks after Hurricane Ida ripped through the region as it made it’s way inland
Haywood Johnson, the town’s church pastor, says caskets he buried have been carried away from cemetery grounds and spread throughout the community
The search for the caskets, which are bound in above-ground tombs and made of cement and other heavy materials, has been further complicated by mud, high grass and snakes
Meanwhile, a funeral vault weighing thousands of pounds moved nearly three thousand feet away before ending up right in front of the church.
‘It caused people to be in disarray,’ said Johnson, who told the outlet that he is still currently looking for the caskets of his own mother, uncle and sister.
‘They’re shocked by the magnitude of the destruction, but they’re even more so overwhelmed by their loved ones floating and ending up landing in the streets and people’s yards and on the side of the levee and out in the field, and it’s just, just overwhelming.’
‘One of the things that bothered me is that I was the one that buried most of those people, most of the deceased, and it was like pulling the scab off of a wound,’ Johnson added.
A funeral vault weighing thousands of pounds (pictured) moved nearly three thousand feet away before ending up right in front of the church
Surrounded by mold, Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Pastor Haywood Johnson, pictured, leaves the church after rescuing sermon robes in Ironton
The search for the missing caskets, which are bound in above-ground tombs and made of cement and other heavy materials, has been further complicated by mud, high grass and snakes, Johnson told CNN.
After Hurricane Katrina displaced nearly a thousand caskets back in 2005, Louisiana now requires all of them to have some form of identification, according to NPR.
Meanwhile, residents of Ironton have called upon the federal government to assist the beleaguered area with the rebuilding process after Ida’s destructive path, WDSU reports.
‘We just want to know what is happening. When will these projects get started? So residents can try to come in and salvage some of their property,’ Major Tracy Riley said.
While the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans Division said the town’s levees worked as they were designed to, the high elevation of the land surrounding Ironton made for the perfect conditions for flooding.
‘With the Plaquemines area, the entire West Bank we’re building what we call the New Orleans to Venice project,’ said Ricky Boyett, spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Venice project has been going on for years, however the contract for the New Orleans to Venice levee project is currently out for bid.
Boyett told Fox 8 Live that it should bring the levee systems in lower Plaquemines up to federal standards.
Ironton resident Kornell Davis (pictured) walks through the Ironton cemetery, still covered in nearly a foot a marsh mud Sunday, Sept. 19
Jeremy Salvant walks on the Mississippi River levee to avoid snakes and passing a casket, after rescuing family photographs from his mold filled destroyed home in Ironton, Sunday, Sept. 19
On Tuesday, Members of the Louisiana Cemetery Response Task Force were in Ironton to survey the devastation and determine what equipment and tools will be needed to recover the missing caskets.
A staging area was also being created for bodies to be properly identified before they are returned to their final resting places.
‘It’s not something you can do without heavy equipment,’ said task force chairman Ryan Seidemann, while adding that some of the caskets and their vaults weighed tons.
‘When I was out in this community cemetery, I was up to my knees in muck, so finding the purchase for a crane or some other kind of [machinery] to get a hold and be able to lift these these heavy weights is going to be a challenge,’ he said.