- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — The 90 men and women sent by the German government to drain flood water from the city are among thousands of specialists now arriving to begin the cleanup process.

“If you can help and you have the opportunity to help, you should,” said Jan Goerich, 29, from Speyer, Germany. “We are here to help, that is all.”

The team of Germans, volunteers with Technisches Hilfswerk, a German disaster-relief organization, arrived Friday at Belle Chasse Naval Air Base with 15 pumps that can move almost 6 million gallons of water a day.

The German specialists are split into eight groups across the flooded city to pump water from such places as parking garages, sewage stations and neighborhoods.

“Our job is to get the pumping stations up and running,” said Andsreas Garrecht, 35. “We have no plans to leave. We are here until it’s done.”

The German team is just one of many on hand to clean up and to protect those doing the work.

The special-response teams of the D.C.-based Immigration Customs Enforcement patrol outside the Superdome, which was a major evacuation center for tens of thousands, while crews inside clear broken bottles, water-soaked plaster, rotting trash and other messes.

“They are doing a real good job of getting the place back to normal,” said Officer Fred Stacey, 45, of Reston, Va. “It’s almost mind-numbing here, but we’re just here to help. You get over it.”

In the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the mall attached to the Superdome, a cleaning crew from Chicago-based United Service Companies has been working all week to remove garbage and sanitize the area.

“Right now, inside is marvelous compared to how it was,” said employee Bobby Lisanty, 69. “How it was is not to be believed by man nor beast.”

Mr. Lisanty and his 26-member team will systematically clean the hotel over the coming days. The team will move to other projects when the work is finished.

In St. Bernard Parish, where the worst flooding occurred, the 3650th Maintenance Company of the Colorado National Guard spent the afternoon clearing an intersection.

“You wouldn’t believe what we’ve found back here,” said Sgt. Daniel Rinker, 47, of Westminster, Colo. “There’s a lot of alcohol. People just came back here and had a party.”

The National Guardsmen, whose only protection during cleanup yesterday was rubber gloves, swept the trash into a pile, then picked it up by hand and placed it in a large bin.

As the flood water recedes, mud dried and cracked in the hot sun has caked the streets and sidewalks. Cars, baby strollers, blankets and other items are scattered where the flooding left them.

Danny Prinz, 40, was allowed to return to his New Orleans Parish business, Dwyer Motors, yesterday to collect three tool carts and an industrial-strength power washer.

“It’s going to be a long time before this place is back to normal,” he said.

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