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In the first week of October, a team of NRDC experts went to Louisiana at the request of local partner groups, including the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, to gather first-hand information about the health and environmental after-effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

On the following pages NRDC's Albert Huang, Erik Olson, Patrice Simms and Gina Solomon describe what they saw and the conclusions they drew. Click on the links at left to read their observations regarding various health concerns and to see related photos. (view bios)

  Click to view photographs
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The sheer devastation in New Orleans was stunning to everyone in our group. Nothing we saw on TV quite prepared us for the scope of the disaster. Most areas of the city were eerily devoid of life, because the mayor had not yet fully reopened the city. Only police, emergency response crews and animal rescue groups were evident in most of the hard-hit areas. No stores, restaurants, gas stations or other businesses were open in these areas, and most neighborhoods were still without electrical power.

Although the floodwaters had receded in most places, they had left behind a chaotic mess of debris, sediment and abandoned cars. Black smudges on buildings and cars showed the high-water mark -- sometimes 10 feet or more above the ground -- and orange spray paint marked houses that had been searched by rescue teams. The smell in many areas was overpowering, and appeared to consist of a mixture of putrification, petroleum and mold. We came across stray dogs and some dead animals in the streets. But the roads had largely been cleared of debris, allowing us to travel for miles through this bizarre landscape. -- Al Huang, Erik Olson, Patrice Simms, Gina Solomon.

Photos all pages: Erik Olson and Gina Solomon

last revised 10/12/2005

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