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More than three months after Hurricane Katrina devastated thousands of homes, local and federal officials are trading blame over the slow delivery of temporary trailer housing in Louisiana, according to CNN.
“We got a serious situation in St. Bernard Parish,” its president, Henry “Junior” Rodriguez, told CNN today (Dec. 13).
“We got people living in tents and automobiles,” he said. “We got people living in barns. … This is the beginning of winter. This is unacceptable.”
The temperature had dropped to 41 degrees on Tuesday morning, according to CNN.
Rodriguez said that 12,000 trailers are needed for the number of people estimated to return home to the region, far short of the 50 to 55 trailers that are currently operational at a local site.
Adding to the frustration are the 1,400 trailers that are sitting unused in St. Bernard Parish because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reportedly not agreed to pay for them.
There also are more than 5,000 FEMA mobile homes in Arkansas sitting unused, according to CNN.
FEMA responded Tuesday, telling CNN it is ready to deliver 125,000 trailers to the area but that parish officials “still have to identify places to put them.”
The agency said that St. Bernard Parish “has identified 1,000 sites for trailers … 500 of them have already been installed, and the rest are in the works.”
“It is understandable that the process can be frustrating, given that basic services, including electricity, were just recently restored,” FEMA’s statement read.
“While most of the housing stock in St. Bernard’s was decimated by Katrina, several options exist to ensure that people have a safe, warm place to stay.”
The dispute over the trailers is the latest in a long line of bitter battles between local, state and federal officials over who bears responsibility for a breakdown in services that left people stranded, homeless and sometimes dying in the wake of the storm.
St. Bernard Homeland Security Chief Larry Ingargiola said he calls FEMA representatives three to four times a day and cannot persuade the agency to move faster in paying for the trailers. “If they don’t pay for the trailers, I can’t put the trailers out,” he said.
Rodriguez said he and other parish officials identified 6,500 trailers, each at a price $1,500 less than what FEMA is paying for trailers of the same type. Another list he provided had 4,500 trailers that are $3,000 cheaper than what FEMA pays, Rodriguez said. And FEMA hasn’t talked with the contractor in charge of the cheaper trailers, Rodriguez added.
Meanwhile Jim Maguire, the private contractor whose unused trailers haven’t been paid for, told CNN that they can’t stay in St. Bernard for ever.