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Louisiana Guard Troops Empty Nursing Home as Floodwaters Surge

Louisiana Guard Troops Empty Nursing Home as Floodwaters Surge
A convoy from the National Guard arrive at a staging area awaiting further instructions in New Orleans on August 29, 2012. Photographer: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Louisiana’s flooded Plaquemines Parish coordinated the pickup of 112 nursing home residents after officials worried levees would break.

After the order at 4 p.m. today, dozens of ambulances convoyed with flashing lights down Belle Chasse Highway to get patients at the Riverbend Nursing & Rehab Center, only about 1,000 feet (305 meters) from the barrier between inundated land and the Mississippi River.

A line of a dozen elderly men and women, some hunched and weak, queued at the door in wheelchairs waiting to be loaded onto vans by paramedics in white rubber gloves.

Earlier today, dozens were trapped in their homes in the parish southeast of New Orleans after Tropical Storm Isaac. Officials were considering breaching a second levee there to reduce flooding, Governor Bobby Jindal said at a briefing in Baton Rouge, the capital.

At Riverbend, the most critical of the evacuees, about 20 in all, were taken to sister nursing homes in the region, said Mike Ford, the home’s chief operating officer. One silver-headed man wearing a plaid shirt looked bewildered as he was loaded, strapped onto a gurney, into one of the stream of waiting ambulances.

“Could you imagine doing this at 10 p.m.?” Ford said.

National Guard troops in Humvees helped load supplies and push patients onto the rescue units.

The rest of the home’s residents were being taken outside the levee seven miles (11 kilometers) away to a nearby military air base, where they would be tended to by Riverbend staff.

The evacuation was expected to last about two hours, Ford said. It was put into motion by a single command from a lead coordinator, Ford said.

“They just said get on the convoy,” one ambulance driver told a colleague.

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