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Local officials warn of dangers

Local officials urged evacuated residents to stay away because of possible dangers.

BY CHUCK HUSTMYRE | LAKE CHARLES, La. | September 29, 2005

At a press conference Wednesday, a local official urged evacuated residents to stay away and warned them of possible dangers should they return too early.

"We are not ready for you to re-enter Calcasieu Parish," said Parish Police Jury President Hal McMillin. "Calcasieu Parish is still closed."

Although police have sealed off most interstate exits leading into Lake Charles, McMillin acknowledged Wednesday that many residents had already returned. "We are not running you out," he said at the press conference, "but please be self sufficient. Don't put a burden on the parish to take care of you."

McMillin said parish officials were working on a re-entry plan but said a 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. curfew is still in effect.

The water is not drinkable and power has not been restored in the parish. A utility company spokeswoman said there were more than 1,400 broken utility poles in and around Lake Charles and that more than 1,800 transformers had been knocked out. Utility workers from around the country are in the Lake Charles area trying to restore utility service, she said.

Officials also warned that the parish's normal medical facilities are not operating at anywhere near full capacity. If a returning evacuee is injured - a likely occurrence one official said with so many houses in need of immediate repairs - the injured evacuee would likely have to be transported to another town.

Lucas Terracina, director of mosquito control for the parish, said his department has found a significant increase in mosquito larvae. "There is a lot of water out there and that's going to produce a lot of mosquitoes," he said. "It's going to get bad."

Although there were cases of West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, in the parish before the storm, Terracina said he doesn't anticipate an immediate increase in the spread of the virus. However, he added, the situation could change.

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