NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Councilwoman Kristin Palmer lashed out at owners of several senior living residences where at five people were found dead and hundreds of others were evacuated after Hurricane Ida left them without power and resources.
Among the owners of the residences that were evacuated is the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which operates several of those in question.
NOLA.com said the Archdiocese gave a statement on Sunday saying that its officials asked for city aid after the storm, but didn't get it.
Mayor Cantrell said the responsibility for the residents in the senior homes lies with their ownership.
"When you leave nothing but a sign that says 'Call 311,' when they're responsible, I have a problem with that."
Palmer said that one of the managers of one of the properties had put up such a sign and then left the residents and evacuated to Mobile. She accused them of hiding behind the "independent living" label, that implies that the residents did not need extra care and could fend for themselves.
"They're like, 'whoa, whoa, whoa, it's independent living,'" she said. "It's not independent living if there's no power and you're in a wheelchair on the fourth floor... Yes, you can be independent if you have electricity and a working elevator. They didn't have working elevators and they were leaving people on the third, fourth, fifth floor with no resources and then telling me on the phone that it's independent living."
Cantrell announced Monday that the city was establishing a "building evaluation strike team" to inspect senior living facilities following Hurricane Ida.
The move comes after health officials made wellness checks at some private senior apartments that lacked air conditioning or adequate medical care for the residents. Five people were found dead, prompting the city to evacuate some facilities with the worst conditions.
Councilmember Jay Banks, who said he personally walked through some of the facilities, said management seemingly left the facilities and the residents inside before Ida made landfall and had not returned since.
"What we found was unacceptable," Cantrell said Monday. "And accountability will be across the board."
Cantrell said the strike team will be composed of various city government departments including specialized inspectors, the fire department, the city's health department, and others. Their goal will be to make sure that seniors who had evacuated from the storm will not return to unsafe living conditions.
"We don't want to bring them back in the conditions that they left," Cantrell said.
Cantrell said that the city was first concerned about making sure the facilities were safe before exploring any actions to take against management.
"We will not see this happen again," she said.