September 13, 2005

Three New Orleans suburbs to reopen Wednesday

GRETNA, Louisiana (Reuters) - Three suburbs of New Orleans
announced they will reopen on Wednesday, saying residents have
safe water, electricity and sewer service 15 days after Katrina

The cities of Gretna, Westwego and Lafitte, Louisiana, said
residents could come back starting at 5 a.m. on Wednesday
morning but cautioned that they would face a strict curfew

"The city now is open for business," Westwego mayor Robert
Billiot told WWL radio. "We are going to rebuild Westwego. We
look forward to you coming home."

The three cities are all in Jefferson Parish, a county of
suburbs that borders New Orleans on both sides of the
Mississippi River. They are on the south side of the river, the
so-called West Bank, and did not suffer the widespread,
continued flooding that other areas have.

On Tuesday Gretna was still mostly deserted, with a few
working traffic lights, some gas stations in operation and
streets full of empty damaged homes and businesses.

A steady stream of electricity repair trucks from other
states, National Guard and Army vehicles paraded up and down
the main highways, but there was little other traffic.

"The stores are not open yet but we are distributing food
from the town hall," Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner told the radio
station in a live announcement moderated by another local
politician, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.

"We are close to picking up all the debris."

Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris said residents could look
forward to near-full city services.

"We have lifted the boiled water alert," he told the radio
station. "Debris pick-up will begin from our private

Most residents have not been back to their homes since they
fled Katrina, expecting to be gone only a few days.

In neighboring Plaquemines Parish, officials said residents
of flooded areas could return on Wednesday to inspect their
homes, or what was left of them, and retrieve items.

Further south in Plaquemines Parish people have been back
for several days the drier upper areas. Piles of trash and
debris lined the main highway lined with both luxury houses and
modest trailer homes.

In front of nearly every home was a taped-up refrigerator.
After a week without power and with daily temperatures above 90
degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius), rotten food had
ruined the appliances.