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Cushy Flood Shelter Checks Up on Victims, Sends Some Packing

March 22, 1997| From Associated Press

HARRISONBURG, La. — Private rooms. Private baths. Free food. Sounds more like a spa than an emergency shelter to some residents of not-so-flooded areas around Catahoula Parish.

More than 20 people have been asked to leave the private rooms at the refuge, which opened in an empty nursing home last week. Operators say the shelter, in a rural area about 160 miles northwest of New Orleans, can't afford to take care of those whose homes aren't flooded.

"We're actually going to these people's homes to see if there is water there," said Shelia Mayo, Catahoula Parish's civil defense director.

About 60 people have come to the shelter, and parish officials are trying to make sure all of them have been forced out by flood waters.

"Some people are panicking and falsifying applications," Mayo said. "But shelters are only for emergency situations. You have to have water in your home."

Many people at the shelter, those who live alongside Bayou Louie in nearby Sicily Island, do have water in their homes. A road leading into the area has disappeared under 5 feet of water, and only the tops of barbed-wire fence posts alongside the road are visible.

The flooding may get worse, forcing out more residents, because four nearby rivers--the Ouachita, Black, Tensas and Little--are unable to drain because of the rising Mississippi.

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