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Hurricane Katrina update   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Monday, 19 December 2005

Written by: Susan Roberts


New Orleans, LA - Recovery efforts continue in the southern American states hit by Hurricane Katrina in August.  The procedure has been very slow and amidst the complaints of racism, bias, and lack of assistance, a U.S. federal judge in New Orleans has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend its payments of hotel bills for Hurricane Katrina victims who are homeless.

The ruling, by Judge Stanwood Duval of the Eastern District of Louisiana, covers 42,000 evacuee families still living in 4,000 hotels in 47 states and the District of Columbia. FEMA had previously said it would stop paying for their rooms on Dec. 15 or Jan. 7, depending on their proximity to the disaster zone.  Mold has ravaged many homes to the brink of unspeakable conditions that even the naysayers are having trouble explaining.

Duval ordered the deadline moved to Feb. 7, and criticized the agency for making an ?arbitrary deadline? that was ?unduly callous,? the New York Times reported.  Even those who have been allowed to return to their homes have been suffering health problems.  Among reported symptoms have been the well documented Katrina Cough.?  Medical experts are investigating reports of what is being called "Katrina cough."  It is known to be caused by toxins from the mold due to ambient spores from water damaged buildings. 

The preliminary effects are said to be similar to those of a cold, but with a cough that will not go away, sinus headaches, runny noses, sore throats, acid reflux, brain fog, and vomiting.  Long term exposure can lead to permanent neurological, immunological, and pathological damage.

The city of New Orleans, in Louisiana, appears to have the most cases.  It had the worst damage from Katrina.  More than one thousand people died in Louisiana.  Officials say the biggest public health concern there now is mold. 

Mold spreads and reproduces by making spores.  It can affect people who breathe it, swallow it or get it on their skin. Therefore, the need to avoid exposure is extremely important.  This is one of the main reasons why people should seek alternative means of shelter. Extending payments of hotel bills for Hurricane Katrina victims who are homeless by court order will make this facilitation much easier with a more sound resolution.

?'It is unimaginable what anxiety and misery these erratic and bizarre vacillations by FEMA have caused these victims, all of whom, for at least one point in time, had the very real fear of being without shelter for Christmas,? Duval wrote in his ruling.

Since the Aug. 29 storm battered the Gulf Coast, the hotel program has cost $350 million and at its peak included 85,000 rooms in all 50 states.

Currently, there are over 7,000 displaced families from other hurricanes due to mold that FEMA, Red Cross, etc., has failed to address or provide aid for who are currently living in shelters, hotels, with relatives, and homeless.

This video is compliments of Ray L?pez, who works for a non-profit organization based in New York City ( He is producing an instructional film regarding the severe mold issues in the Gulf Coast area, to be distributed for free to residents, homeowners, organizations and groups that are involved in the recovery.

The film will be about 19 minutes long. (On their site is his first mold film, ?Learning About Mold?, if you?re interested).

From 10/1/05 to 10/12/05, he went to New Orleans with his colleague, Bill Sothern, CIH ( to help people with the unprecedented mold growth caused by the hurricanes and flooding. Along with two other crew members, they surveyed 20 homes throughout the city and gave those homeowners detailed advice. With this first-hand experience, they co-wrote guidelines for residents (available on this site; above left).

Their reason for going to New Orleans was to give people sound advice on how to protect themselves (physically & financially) upon returning to their homes. Their other tasks were to document the trip, in video and in still photos, and to produce an instructional film to complement their comprehensive guidelines. They have already distributed hundreds of hard copies of their guidelines and probably hundreds more via e-mail. They are currently editing the film and trying to submit it to be manufactured ASAP.

Mr. Lopez and Mr. Sothern conducted two free Mold Seminars in New Orleans on 10/8 and 10/15 where about 30 and 150 people attended, respectively. They are doing this work because it is what they do: running a community-based indoor environmental asthma program in East Harlem, while Mr. Sothern is a mold expert and certified industrial hygienist who does community service and pro-bono work for their organization. Their associations have been involved for almost 10 years.

Ray L?pez
Environmental Program Manager/Asthma Program
Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, Inc.
(212) 987-4422

Last Updated (Monday, 26 December 2005)

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