How did the New Orleans cemeteries fare through Hurricane Katrina?
September 3, 2005 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Amid the original concerns about a Cat 3 or higher hurricane hitting New Orleans was the above-ground cemetery circumstances in the city. I'm not sure this thread could be any more ghoulish than what the status quo is but, has anyone heard anything about the status of the cemeteries in New Orleans?
posted by Jazznoisehere to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
I have heard news reports saying that identifying bodies is going to be difficult because of the deterioration time in water...and nutria and alligators and other marshland critters, and fact that many of the recent dead will be mixed with the existing dead.
posted by dejah420 at 8:38 PM on September 3, 2005

I've seen caskets floating on coverage.
posted by 6:1 at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2005

In one of the news slideshows, I saw a photo of one with plenty of broken monuments, but it wasn't sitting in water. Maybe that one was on higher ground than some others.
posted by GaelFC at 8:59 PM on September 3, 2005

I saw a pic somewhere that showed the tops of those, what-you-call'ems that house the caskets above the water.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 PM on September 3, 2005

This AP report on landmarks of NOLA says "Little is known about the fate of other landmarks located in the flood area, including St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, one of the larger cemeteries known as "cities of the dead," with narrow paths, rusty iron work and sun-bleached tombs built aboveground because the water table was so high caskets would occasionally float away if buried underground".

I can see why it wouldn't be a priority right now. Anyway, the fate of individual burials may depend on age and construction materials/methods.
posted by dhartung at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2005

Most New Orleans cemeteries work this way: bodies are placed in a family tomb, which is a big above-water stone structure. After a long time, the bones and dust are moved somewhat to make room for the next body. I very much doubt that actual not-completely-decomposed bodies are getting out of the cemeteries very much. On the other hand, the scene on streets with people who have died in the last week is very gruesome indeed.
posted by lackutrol at 10:18 PM on September 3, 2005

*smacks forehead*

I should have said "above-ground stone structure." You can imagine why I made that slip.
posted by lackutrol at 10:20 PM on September 3, 2005

I think the problem is going to be worse outside New Orleans. I've heard eyewitnesses speaking of caskets coming out of the ground in standard cemeteries. The New Orleans tombs are, I'm sure, badly damaged, and there may have been some damage bad enough to cause old remains to float around. But I believe the flooded cemeteries where people were still being buried underground will be quite a bit worse in that regard.

By the way -- I've heard (no time to research it right now) that the reason the NoLa tombs became local custom is that there was a horrendous storm in the late 1700s in which all the formerly buried bodies did come up and float around in a horrific mess.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on September 4, 2005

Miko, you may remember that during Camille there were a bunch of corpses in the trees, of all things. I fear we'll see a lot of similar stuff this time.
posted by lackutrol at 2:20 AM on September 5, 2005

FWIW This method of 'burial' is also practiced in Belgium. But you only rent the tomb for a period of time. At the end of your term, the remains are swept back to make room for the next. And there isn't much left.
posted by Goofyy at 7:11 AM on September 7, 2005

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