Fran Hines, a member of the Belmar First Aid Squad, traveled to Pass Christian, also known as "The Pass," with Belmar Capt. Tom Palmisano last weekend.
The squad donated an old Belmar ambulance to the Mississippi town and it was transported there on the back of a flatbed truck.
Mr. Hines, who also serves on Belmar's fire department and emergency management team, said the reason for his visit with Capt. Palmisano was to deliver the ambulance and see firsthand the damage - and to find out what Belmar could do to help.
"It was incredible to see the damage, just incredible," Mr. Hines
said this week.
"I was moved."
said that of the approximately 100 homes left standing in Pass Christian
following the storm, about half were still habitable.
said a division of the U.S. is running heavy equipment in the town to
assist with the recovery efforts, along with building temporary housing for those residents who want to return home.
observed a few people living in tents on what appeared to be their own property, beginning the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding - but not many.
"They're all still shell-shocked," he
While visiting, Mr. Hines
also saw "power trucks everywhere" working to erect new poles in the ground so electricity could be restored.
And the town had just had its water turned back on after going more than 30 days without running water, he
"The whole downtown was just a pile of rubble, it was pretty wild," Mr. Hines
"The whole infrastructure is just shot."
said it was evident during his
visit that the town was struck by an approximately 30-foot wave during Hurricane Katrina that washed away dozens of homes and buildings.
saw what would be called Ocean Avenue in Belmar and all that was left was concrete slabs where homes had once stood - the water surge carried all the debris blocks away.
"The wave actually took all these homes and just tossed them and broke them up like little sticks," Mr. Hines
said the Federal Emergency Management Agency
[FEMA] has hired a contractor to remove debris, an effort that is expected to take months.
"It's like tearing the whole town down and carting it away," he
said, adding that no rebuilding can occur until all of the debris is taken away.
According to Mr. Hines, a Pass Christian firefighter was killed in the hurricane and another one is still missing.
said the police department tried to weather the storm in the town's library and nearly drowned in the process.
"These are the guys that hung in there with the town," he
said, adding he
plans to work with the first aid and fire department there to help them get back on their feet.
hopes Belmar can raise cash donations to benefit The Pass at Christmas.
"It's going to be a sad day down there I can tell you that," he
said the move is likely to happen across Louisiana since so many evacuees are not paying any taxes.
"There's no coffers to draw from to pay your employees," he
gave a presentation to the council at last Wednesday night's meeting - prior to his
trip to Pass Christian
- regarding the squad's donation of the ambulance, which was packed with supplies.
Mr. Hines told council members he hoped to begin working with Pass Christian's fire chief - who he said he talks to on a daily basis - regarding a long-term plan for recovery.
Councilwoman Patricia Provenzano noted the borough plans to help support Pass Christian's recovery efforts are not a "one-shot deal" but, instead, will go on for years to come.
, who received two rounds of applause from the council and members of the public during his
presentation, also said he
planned to contact every borough department, from the mayor on down, to see what else could be donated to Pass Christian
said while he
was in the devastated Mississippi town he
saw clothes and cases of water "just laying everywhere ... dumped in parking lots."
"I think that part of the emergency down there is over," he