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Hurricane Katrina

Unknown storm victims buried

The man and woman are among the about 100 killed in Katrina's aftermath who have yet to identified.

Associated Press
Published February 3, 2006

PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Five months after Hurricane Katrina, a man and woman whose identities are still a mystery were laid to rest side-by-side Thursday, mourned by complete strangers in the first of what could be many such burials to come.

The Rev. Rex Yancey, who led the brief graveside service, urged the mourners to pray that the victims would someday be identified and reunited with relatives.

"I don't know your name, but you are not alone. We stand here with you as you journey home," the Baptist preacher said, reciting a poem he wrote for the occasion.

The bodies were found in different places about a week after the Aug. 29 hurricane. Nobody came forward to claim them, and after fingerprints, dental records and DNA tests failed to yield their identities, the local coroner decided the time had come to let them rest in peace.

More than 100 other unidentified victims of Katrina - mostly from New Orleans - still await burial. In all, more than 1,300 lives were lost to the storm.

Kevin Stephens, New Orleans' health director, said many residents driven from their homes by the hurricane do not have the means to return and look for missing relatives.

"We should take every reasonable measure to identify our citizens," he said. "Perhaps that justifies taking a little additional time."

On Thursday, several dozen people, including six sheriff's deputies serving as pallbearers, gathered at the city-owned cemetery to pay their respects. At the end of the service, many left flowers on the matching fiberglass caskets. Some wiped away tears as they walked away from the graves.

Lucille Nash, 70, of D'Iberville brought a red rose. Her daughter, 46-year-old Sheila Aultman, died in the storm, but Nash did not learn of Aultman's death until November. "It could have very easily been her here," Nash said.

Mississippi's Jackson County was hit hard by the storm. Thirteen people died and thousands lost homes and businesses. For Thursday's service, a local funeral home donated the caskets, a florist furnished free flowers, the city set aside two burial plots, and Yancey, pastor at First Baptist Church, volunteered to officiate.

Both bodies were badly decomposed when they turned up in different parts of Ocean Springs, a coastal city west of Pascagoula.

The man's body was found in a marshy area. He was a black man in his early 60s with a bald spot and a close-cropped mustache. On his left forearm was a tattoo with the number "8" inside a heart shape.

The woman was found between the slabs where two houses once stood. She was a black woman, about 5-foot-3 and 150 pounds. She was wearing black pants and a University of Michigan T-shirt with gold lettering.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus said she hopes the victims' genetic profiles can yield clues once they are run through various DNA databases.

"Just because they're buried isn't going to mean they're forgotten," she said.

Tornadoes add to damage in flood-stricken areas

KENNER, La. - Tornadoes tore through New Orleans neighborhoods Thursday that had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina just five months earlier, collapsing at least one previously damaged house and battering Louis Armstrong International Airport, authorities said.

Roofs were ripped off, utility poles came down and a radio tower fell near a thoroughfare, but no serious injuries were reported.

"Don't ever ask the question, "What else could happen?"' said Marcia Paul Leone, surveying the new damage to her Katrina-flooded home.

[Last modified February 3, 2006, 01:25:14]

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