State officials begin process of returning disturbed graves
DENHAM SPRINGS – At Plainview Cemetery near Denham Springs, more than half of the graves here have been disturbed.
Dozens of caskets have been unearthed. Concrete vaults that weigh thousands of pounds have been forced out of the ground.
“This is by far the biggest disturbance we’ve seen,” Cemetery contractor Arbie Goings said. “We have reports of over 50 cemeteries in eight parishes, but this one is probably the worst.”
Goings has been hired by the state to oversee the cleanup efforts. He says it could take months to restore the cemeteries back to their pre-storm state.
“It will be a huge effort. We’ll have to bring in some professionals, vault companies, funeral homes or those who have to those who have both the equipment and experience in putting these back,” he said.
About 187 graves sites in this cemetery were disturbed by the flooding. That means 187 individual claims have to be filed for the caskets and the vaults to be repaired and re-buried.
FEMA will pick up the tab on restoring the cemetery. But family members will first have to identify their loved one’s grave site.
“The difficult ones are going to be the caskets that have been separated from their thumbs, so we don’t know who they are,” Goings said. “Working with local funeral directors and family members, we hope to begin to identify some of these caskets so we’ll know where to return them.”
Goings said the state may have to call LSU FACES Lab to make sure that the right caskets are returned to their correct graves.