Hope Amid Suffering In Rural Gulf

Lisa Truong cleans the debris from her nail salon which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Pass Christian, Miss., on Monday, Sept. 5, 2005. AP

Hurricane Katrina's lasting frustrations are felt strongly along the Mississippi coast, where people who have chosen to stay or are stuck in demolished neighborhoods scavenge for basics each day.

Some say they will stay to rebuild their communities, others say they would leave if they could get a ride or a few gallons of gasoline, but all agree that — with no water or power available, probably for months — they need more help from the government just to survive.

In terms of potential aid, some political rays of sunshine seem ready to shine on Mississippi. A triumvirate of Republican power brokers may give Mississippi first dibs in the post-Hurricane Katrina grab for federal disaster funds even though the federal government focused its initial response to the storm on New Orleans.

The state's senior senator, Thad Cochran, is the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel charged with determining how much and where the recovery money will be spent.

But until aid branches out to the impoverished rural communities, suffering continues. One of the water-logged areas of Gulfport, Miss., "stinks to high heaven" and may prevent a public health risk due to tons of rotting chickens and pork scattered around, the Biloxi Sun Herald reports. The rotting meat was swept in from nearby State Port, and reportedly smells so bad that even residents whose homes survived the storm haven't been able to return to clean up.

"I have been all over the world. I've been in a lot of Third World countries where people were better off than the people here are right now," retired Air Force Capt. William Bissell said Monday.

Communities of survivors are banning together, such as in one Mississippi town where a tent city dubbed "Camp Katrina" popped up, but aid isn't reaching some rural areas.

"Not one time has anybody come here besides just civilians to give us anything," one tent-city dweller told CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Mississippi's junior senator's home — a place where GOP leaders from across the country once bantered about politics from rocking chairs on a porch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico — was flattened by Katrina.

"There's nothing there now," Sen. Trent Lott said of his historic Pascagoula house, which had been 12 feet above sea level. "I found my refrigerator, from my kitchen. It went down the street two blocks, turned left and went into a neighbor's yard."

Add Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Mississippi packs more political muscle than the other storm-ravaged states of Louisiana and Alabama.

Television and the Internet have introduced the men to the world in intensely emotional terms.

Before the cameras, Barbour wept, bereft of words, as he tried to describe the scene in the first hours after the storm.

On the Senate floor, the genteel Cochran spoke softly about the storm.

"I don't know of anything that has depressed me more than seeing what I saw yesterday in my state," Cochran said late last week when he presided over an emergency session to send $10.5 billion to the region.

But political squabbles are also arising. Lott says he's asked President Bush to step in and release 20,000 trailers sitting idle in Atlanta.

Lott says the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are having jurisdictional squabbles. e says FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are signed specifying exactly where they'll go in Mississippi.

  • Joel Roberts

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