Thursday, February 16, 2006
Massive morgue outside New Orleans rests in peace
Just yesterday, nearly six months after Hurricane Katrina, yet another body was removed from a New Orleans home. Normally, doctors would use advanced forensic techniques to try to identify the body.

But Louisiana's medical examiner, Dr. Louis Cataldie, says he no longer has the necessary equipment. That's because FEMA has closed the enormous, $17 million morgue it built about an hour drive north of New Orleans. Cataldie was using the morgue's high-tech equipment to help him the identify the bodies of Katrina victims.

Just after Katrina hit, officials feared a death toll upwards of 10,000 or 20,000. But after only 60 bodies were examined at the facility, FEMA closed the morgue on Monday, saying its work was done and that keeping it open would cost $230,000 every week. The bunk beds, washers and dryers, and gym equipment for its staff are being mothballed. The state-of-the-art autopsy gear already has been shipped out.

Cataldie says he thought most of the 2,100 people still listed as missing would have been documented by now. But, as it turns out, Cataldie thinks there are another 60 to 100 bodies still buried in the rubble of New Orleans' Ninth Ward. With the closing of the morgue, Cataldie hopes to set up shop soon in a washed-out funeral home in New Orleans.
Posted By Sean Callebs, CNN Correspondent: 12:31 PM ET
I have no words... I am just disgusted with what is happening in New Orleans. When will the government wake up?
Posted By Anonymous Brittney, Houston : 12:49 PM ET
I see no problems with this. $200K a week for 60 bodies ssem to be a waste.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Boise Idaho : 1:03 PM ET
This is repulsive. When is FEMA going to really HELP those people. Why are there no trailers for the people in the lower ninth ward and there are trailers for the upper class neighborhoods? Why are there utilities in the French Quarter and none in the projects up the street mayby a block away? Oh I forgot the projects don't bring in money they are not as valuable.
Posted By Anonymous DJ North Carolina : 1:03 PM ET
Not only were they left to die, now they're left to rot.
Posted By Anonymous Regan, Charlotte, North Carolina : 1:04 PM ET
Nothing more should be done in the city without locating the folks who lost their lives and properly putting them to rest.

Throw away souls, that is what we are seeing- I totally understand how folks are sick and tired of being sick and tired-those still in the rubble of this deserve better- it can't cost that much to remove these bodies from the destruction?
Dr. Cataldie and his staff can't do their job without bodies being removed from these houses. Removing the bodies is the first step in providing information to those looking for family after this disaster.

I can understand why some folks are not in the mood for Mardi Gras, or spending money on Mardi Gras, or anything else, that money could be used elsewhere in removing these bodies, and it should be.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Baton Rouge, LA : 1:11 PM ET
$17,000,000 - $230,000 These numbers are mind-boggling. Compared to the figures we hear daily regarding government spending these amounts seem insignificant. On the other hand what cost this much? I saw pictures of the morgue. $17 million. And at this point how many staff are needed to keep a big refrigerator unit operating? The cost just seems out of control.
Posted By Anonymous Marty, Melbourne Florida : 1:16 PM ET
The number of unidentified hurricane victims is as sad a story as there is. I hope someday there will be a Tomb of the Unknowns to remember the lost victims of this hurricane. I'd like to see the president attend a memorial service and place a wreath at that tomb and bow his head. When will there be a formal service for the nation to acknowledge the human toll of the hurricane?
Posted By Anonymous Joyce West, Lexington, Ky. : 1:18 PM ET
And another thing. It won't, but maybe the money would be better spent on the living. Compared to the earthquake in Pakistan and the tsunami last year, the number of dead in New Orleans is really small. There was no hope of identification in these other two natural disasters. Sometimes I think Americans have a distorted and somewhat spoiled attitude expecting too much from the government.
Posted By Anonymous Marty, Melbourne Florida : 1:20 PM ET
Sean, The closing of the morgue with all its technology is not disturbing to me, but, bodies left in the rubble for six months, as if no one cares, causes me great sadness. I guess the sadness is because, America is the greatest country in the world but cannot take care of her own. Taking care of the poor is just as important as catering to the rich.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn, Michigan : 1:21 PM ET
It is time to plan -forward. With the endless number of jobs in the New Orleans area, yet there are no housing accommodations to meet the high demand-address that issue-surely there is a more obtainable solution other than the bureaucratic circle. It has been like "Who's on first..." If nothing else, There are several military bases that have been closed- move the homeless into them and let the military oversee the project of maintaining that project. Once the homeless are moved (not an option-they must move) then clean up the debris, search out, literally every possibility of locating the deceased, then clean up the city. Warehouses are quick to build and massive numbers of people can be housed, fed and clothed until actual houses can be built. There will always be those who take advantage of "free". We must get past that and take serious steps -the most direct path to anything is in a straight line- If this is an example of the efforts of the US government at all levels, what are we to expect Should there be another 911???
Posted By Anonymous Debi Boykin, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl. : 1:23 PM ET
Will these kind of stories every end?
There are just so many mistakes being made with our tax dollars. These kinds of things are not helping anyone. Can't something be done? Can anyone really be held accountable? Let's make some major improvements here, from the local, state, and federal governments and most obviously, FEMA.
Posted By Anonymous sue satterwhite saginaw michigan : 1:27 PM ET
Why spend that much money on a morgue to close it before the job is done? It sounds like someone is writing the checks and not thinking before they do. I feel for the people of N.O.. Does this mean they have identified all the bodies that have been found?
Posted By Anonymous Kristy; Mabelvale, AR : 1:30 PM ET
First off the public and government was aware fairly quickly that the death toll was not going to reach 10,000 people like mayor Nagin claimed. Why on earth was this expensive morgue built on that false information. Gym equipment for staff members is ridiculous. Why don't they just put the washer and dryers in the unuseable trailers in Arkansas. That would make perfect sense for FEMA !! This is beyond comprehension !!!
Posted By Anonymous Chris Sutherland,Chicago IL : 1:31 PM ET
I don't think that they should close the morgue, because then what would families do to find their loved ones.
Posted By Anonymous chastina harlan kentucky : 1:39 PM ET
This is a nightmare getting worse by the day. The administration has made more Homeric/Titanic mistakes than I thought was conceivable. What an utter disgrace from both a domestic and international standpoint. How on Earth did we let this happen to our country?
Posted By Anonymous Phil Smith, Atlanta, GA : 1:41 PM ET
Thank you for yet another report on the stellar ineptitude of FEMA.
Posted By Anonymous Chriss Miller, Canton, OH : 1:53 PM ET
In the most advanced country in the world, the fact that bodies still remain in the rubble is a national disgrace. Evev in the tsunami, third-world countries took better care of the living and respected their dead. We as Americans and as part of humanity as a whole need to tell Congress and FEMA that this is not acceptable. Thank you for continuing to keep the focus were it truly matters. Let's keep them honest and make government accountable.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly, Lancaster, PA : 1:57 PM ET
It is shameful that the United States of America can spend Billions per day in a war that shouldn't have been, and neglect American Citizens who need to know what happened and where their loved ones are. How can we as Americans stand tall amount other countries when we have fallen so low with the care of its citizens both living and deceased.
Posted By Anonymous Verma Love, Racine, WI : 1:58 PM ET
I truly believe that Jefferson was correct when he said that the government that governs least, governs best-too many departments in the government-one hand doesn't know what the other is doing-how can it be stopped? I don't know, I just continue to pray for our leaders. I is such a sad state of affairs.
Posted By Anonymous D.Brown, Ontario Canada : 2:01 PM ET
thats crazy
Posted By Anonymous Joe Tucker, Temperence, MI : 2:05 PM ET
Maybe I am missing something, but don't these people deserve to be identified and buried or whatever? If this guy sets up the process in an old funeral home, who is paying for it? Are those bodies even identifable at this point? If FEMA has closed the morgue where and how are the bodies going to be stored.
Posted By Anonymous Heather, Phoenix, Arizona : 2:08 PM ET
All of these stories about the "mismanagement" or more accurately " waste" of funds coming out of New Orleans are making me sick!
It's great to know that my tax dollards are going to fema shifting exercise equipment around for their staff and closing morgues before all of the bodies are processed. There should be a mandatory reading assignment for fema this year - "FEMA FOR DUMMIES!" Also, corporate incompetence ends up the the court room - where are these stooges going to go?
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 2:18 PM ET
The number of lives lost because of Katrina is mind-boggling to say the least, espically in these times. The number of poor souls that have perished because of Katrina (1,103) is half the amount of service men and women killed in Iraq Freedom (2,271) that started in March of 2003!!! Those numbers are staggering! To have FEMA, AGAIN, pull out of something else connected with Katrina is becoming a familiar pattern. NewsFlash FEMA!! It will not go AWAY!!! You cannot run and hide and think that this will be gone tomorrow. As an American, I am truly embarassed by my local and federal goverment. Other countries are also expressing concern about the way that this disaster is being handled. THAT is even more embarassing. The emotional scares will never heal, it hurts, it hurts bad. We are people! We are human beings that live within the borders of the United States of America!!!! Why can't you treat us this way???!?!?
Posted By Anonymous Pepper, New Orleans, Louisiana : 2:18 PM ET
Hey, folks, unhappy with the NO situation? Aks the mayor or the governor what went wrong, not the president. Isn't that obvious by now? Impeach Nagin for gross misconduct.
Posted By Anonymous Rick F., Rochester, NY : 2:28 PM ET
I agree w/Debi. Turn this facility into temporary housing for those who have lost everything. This is the biggest disgrace under this administration. Must be nice to sit in a mansion and have a job and not worry. Wonder what would happen if a disaster of this proportion happened in Texas?
Posted By Anonymous Jeanne Landry, Cape Coral, Fl. : 2:28 PM ET
I am outraged that we spent 17 million dollars to deal with a couple thousand bodies to begin with.
Posted By Anonymous Gary Agner, Idyllwild California : 2:30 PM ET
So it is okay to spend 300 million on homes no one is living in, but it is anethema to spend money on a facility that will actually help families find loved ones. It makes my head hurt. How did we get so screwed up in this country?
Posted By Anonymous K.Kieser, Seattle, WA : 2:38 PM ET
Pressed for time, I occasinally surf to CNN's website to get updates on the state of the world, trusting CNN's heard-one respect for an uflinching focus on substantive news.

Today I find the Entwistle story front and center, consuming probably 40% of the total page. One man, two deaths.

Next to the Entwistle story, sits a small 360 blog about the N.O. morgue, in which it is detailed 60 to 100 more bodies are expected to be extracted from 9th ward wreckage and 2000 total are sill unacounted for.

First, let me applaud Mr. Cooper for staying focussed on the real-life tragedy that might actually deserve 40% of the page.

Second, let me tell you how disappointed I am in CNN as a whole. The Entwistle story is essentially Scott Peterson Pt II starring Hugh Grant. CNN has obviously tapped a demographic fascinated by the downfall of white, upper-middle class murder and will ride it for all it is worth.

This approach does little to distinguish CNN from super-market tabloids. Please, do not mock the deaths of thousands on the gulf coast by giving almost comparable coverage and manpower to covering another Scott Peterson case, with saddly two deaths, not the epic 1000 + wrought by Katrina.

Sad, this just makes me sad.
Posted By Anonymous Justin, Pensacola, FL : 2:44 PM ET
It is almost impossible to comprehend the mismanagement of funds by FEMA. We hear that they have spent approximately 900 million for the maufactured homes, and are now taking bids for gravel at a cost of an additional 6 to 8 million to keep them in a temporary location. However, they won't provide the City of New Orleans with $400,000. to pay the fire department to have the firefighters continue to search for the bodies, saying they will reimburse them. We all know that New Orleans is broke and can't afford to pay upfront, why doesn't FEMA get this, and how can the United States government condone what is happening there. I know that I would not be comfortable coming to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras knowing how much suffering and heartache is being allowed to continue.
Posted By Anonymous M. Pal, Manitoba, Canada : 2:46 PM ET
Pray for our *leaders*? Are you kidding me? I'm praying for John Q. Average Citizen who is getting left behind by our so-called leaders. Katrina/Rita have become yet another in a serious of national disgraces. And still we suffer.....
Posted By Anonymous Cat, Niagara Falls NY : 3:06 PM ET
Living in the New Orleans area, driving through the flooded neighborhoods, it's difficult to believe that so few bodies were found. It makes me wonder how many are yet to be found when the rubble is finally removed.
Posted By Anonymous John Yent, Destrehan, LA : 3:09 PM ET
I read the story twice just to have it as clear as possible, this story was written with the intention to inflame the reader's feelings and it did, but with unfair results. I would like to point out:
1) It sounds like the lab didn't have any work to do. The balance of the estimated bodies out there are somewhere undiscovered as of yet. A morgue isn't what they need, they need rescue & recovery dogs.
2) FEMA did something wrong? Well, not necesssarily if there wasn't work for the lab to perform.
3) How recently was the last body processed through them? Wouldn't that prompted FEMA's decision?

I will say there's plenty of justified blame being affixed to FEMA, but this wasn't necessary. I expect better journalism from you. Why not at least tell a more complete story which is unbiassed and based on a full list of facts instead of partial fact, partial supposition and a whole lot of intended incomplete information intended to comvey a specific negative message. Is that the intent here?
Posted By Anonymous norman-Seattle Wa. : 3:11 PM ET
Perhaps the Feds could lease their new facility and its equipment to the local authorities, who clearly need a place to do their important work. How about a rate of $1.00 a month? It's the least (and I mean the least) they can do for the victims.
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Garden City, NY : 3:13 PM ET
Glad Dave in Idaho knows how much a life is worth. $200k a day isnt much to find a loved one in the richest country in the world. When do we start taking care of each other?
Posted By Anonymous Rebecca Portland, Oregon : 3:17 PM ET
It just gets worse and worse... how is it that we can spend literally millions a day on a war built on lies and deception, to create a country that suits our interest and not even take care of our own people. I am truly saddened and disgusted.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon Walker, Ashburn, VA : 3:18 PM ET
In reading some of the initial responses, I cannot see how people are mad about this closing. Someone asked when FEMA was going to help these people. Well, the living need more help than the dead and teh $230K a week could go to something more useful (not that it necessarily will).
Someone asked when the gov't will wake up... how long have you been a citizen, cupcake? They're not going to wake up... ever. I read a comic strip in Time that accurately summed up the ability of the Federal Gov't to handle a national disaster and it's sad when the satirists can so accurately do so.
Regan in Charlotte mentioned that "not only were they left to die, now they're left to rot." Basic biology... you really don't do much else once you die unless you're creamated or cryogenically frozen.

Those who want to rebuild New Orleans are just as deluded as the government officials that cannot remove head from tail-side. It's a city located BELOW sea-level and the only reason to try to win over mother nature is to prove (or fail and trying to prove) that man is stronger willed and smarter than nature. An intelligent thing to do would be to learn from natural disasters past, learn about the difference is sea-level and the need to have a metropolis ABOVE that near the ocean or any large body of water, and move on.

While I do not condone, in the least bit, the actions or lack thereof of the government on it's handling of the disaster or the citizens, why open the door for it to happen again? All that will happen from that is more outrage at the gov't that's already proved (on more than one occasion over the last 50 years at least) it's ineptitude.

Pray for the victims and the rescue workers. Do what you can to help. But yelling over saving thousands a week and wanting to rebuild a city that will be lost eventually again is needless.
Posted By Anonymous Melissa I. Norfolk, Virginia : 3:19 PM ET
Fed, State and Local Leaders please come together! : Let's take all the tax dollars and create jobs to completely clean up the Gulf Coast, including giving proper treatment to those who passed away and have yet to be found.

Wouldn't clearing away the debris help us all stop looking backward, but in looking forward to a promising future for this part of our country.
Posted By Anonymous Tina -Chicago IL : 3:19 PM ET
This neglect and confusion would never have happened if this had occurred in NYC or DC. Mobilization would have been swift and money plentiful.
Posted By Anonymous Lonnie, Louisville KY : 3:25 PM ET
I cannot believe that after all the fire that FEMA has been in the middle of they STILL are so stupid that they won't allow the equipment to be used to identify the dead!....It just gets worse and about wallowing in a mud pit they are there.
Posted By Anonymous Diana Balasky, West Palm Beach, Florida : 3:27 PM ET
Anyway you look at it Hurricane Katrina had a lasting impact on most southern states and the last time I checked those states were part of the United States of America, so why is FEMA pulling out on this duty, the deceased deserve to be identified and given proper burials.
Posted By Anonymous Sue, Lewisville, Texas : 3:45 PM ET
We have the power to vote, so use it. We have the power to voice our concerns to our Senators and Representatives, so use it.

As for the Katrina victims, get out of the hotels, find a J-O-B, and quit asking for hand outs from the government that you aren't going to get. It's time to move on...
Posted By Anonymous Cindy, Las Vegas, Nevada : 3:47 PM ET
You people are ridiculous! You act like you know what you're talking about, and how it feels to live through this! Try having your entire life ripped away from you while you sit in a hotel room unable to do anything but wait and wonder. Then watch the television as they show you neighborhood with cars and boats on top of houses and mud up to the ceiling.
I'd like for you to watch your whole life wash away and then have someone you don't know tell you it's not worth trying to rebuild or repair it because sooner or later it will be destroyed anyway. Until you live something, you can't possibly understand it, so don't try.
Posted By Anonymous Danielle New Orleans, LA : 3:48 PM ET
This is just disgusting. Take the $300 mil we talked about yesterday, plus all this stuff...what is the government doing with MY money? I give money to my church because I trust what they are doing with it, but at any time I can stop. If I can opt not to give money to God, why can't I stop giving to W?
Posted By Anonymous Dane, Chicago, IL : 4:11 PM ET
I see yet another failure of the US government to care for its citizens. I'd like to know exactly how much of our tax dollars is spent to care for Americans in need, and how much is spent on foreign aid. Yes, people all over the world need assistance, but shouldn't we begin at home? In an attempt to be a good world neighbor, have we forgotten to tend to our own back yard?

It makes me very sad indeed.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 5:19 PM ET
I've long had the suspicion that there's a bit of an unconscious (I hope) attempt to downplay the true number of katrina casualties. This story just reinforces it. That bodies remain buried in rubble almost half a year later is nothing short of pathetic.

Why is it important to downplay the number of casualties? To keep from overshadowing the 'glorious dead' of 9/11, perhaps? To make sure the hideously-misnamed 'war on terror' doesn't lose pride of place in our priorities?

Natural disasters and terrorist attacks both require many of the same responses from our governments. Does anyone really think our ability to deal with a massive terrorist attack within the US would be any better today than the response to Katrina was?
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 5:28 PM ET
This is so dumb! The government needs to pay attention to this, not the war in Iraq. We have no priorities! If we can't deal with a natural disaster, then how will we be so prepared for terrorists?
Posted By Anonymous Sammy, Memphis,Tennessee : 5:43 PM ET
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