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Body recovery begins



Published: Wed, August 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Amid debris, public safety officials and survivors found body after body.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

BILOXI, Miss. -- Firefighters, police officers and volunteers pulled bodies from the rubble in East Biloxi Tuesday morning while hearses and trucks cruised the streets to load the corpses.

Public safety officials could only speculate how many have died as they steadily recovered bodies. On Monday evening, 50 bodies had been recovered, Mayor A. J. Holloway said.

In a five-block radius of East Biloxi, firefighters recovered five bodies in only a few hours. Debris littered the neighborhood and rose to 12 feet in places.

Two silver hearses and a truck eased through the littered landscape to retrieve the bodies as one person after another arrived, sometimes in hysterics, to find missing relatives.

Emergency workers canvassed neighborhoods block by block.

"People ought to know not to stay here for something like this," said Joseph Waldrop, who evacuated before the storm and returned to see how his home and neighbors fared. "I knew better. They gave them plenty of warning to get out of here.

Waldrop said he found a body at Oak Street. "The police covered him up and kept going."

Katrina's storm surge overwhelmed the community. Residents expected Camille; they were wrong.

"We've been through Camille, " said David McCaleb. "We've been through everything. I've never seen anything like this in my life."

Added Richard Wright, who floated to a perch in his neighbor's attic and rode out the storm there: "It looked like a tsunami with hurricane winds."

When the waters subsided, Wright found the body of his 90-year-old neighbor in the neighbor's living room.

Grateful survivors

Charles Parfait's family was among the fortunate. The family survived Katrina in the attic with its two dogs. They latched 5-year-old Hannah Mays to the rafters. Why did they stay in their homes? "Shelters don't accept animals," Parfait said.

The family was covered in mud. It tried to regroup on the roadside where it could go with the dogs.

Several people said they perched in the treetops for Katrina's duration.

Huong Tran, 50, and her fiance were among them.

As the water rose, he helped her climb into a live oak tree where they spent six hours. "I thought I was going to die," Tran said. "The water was over the house." She prayed to a Buddhist goddess. "I called to her, 'Help me; help me. I think I'll die."'

Although most of her possessions washed away, Tran found her goddess statue on the ground near a tree. She hugged it her chest Tuesday saying, "I love her so much. I'll keep her forever."

She said she and her fiance did not evacuate because they were having car trouble.




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