(AFP) – Sep 1, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) — Too vulnerable to evacuate, dozens of children hunkered down in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Gustav blasted the city around them with powerful winds.
While the rest of the city emptied under a mandatory evacuation order before Gustav made landfall in Louisiana Monday, about 70 kids remained at Children's Hospital, where 18 of them were in serious condition while nine were recovering from recent operations.
For the parents of two-week-old baby Charlize Rougeou, keeping their fragile daughter between the sturdy walls of the hospital was a safer choice than taking a grueling trip out of town.
Chandelle and Hunter Rougeou flew here from Texas 10 days ago to have their daughter operated shortly after she was born.
Charlize had an open heart operation on August 26 to fix an artery. Her parents keep a wary eye over the girl, who has a tube going through her mouth.
As they watched Gustav grow and grow as it crept toward Louisiana, the couple worried that the complex operation would have to be postponed. Now they want to make sure she stays put.
"This was the safest place to be," said her mother, Chandelle. "The baby is OK, warm. But, yes, I'm pretty afraid of the hurricane."
Evacuating the sick is a sensitive operation: One day ago, three intensive care patients Lake Charles and New Orleans hospitals died while being evacuated.
Children's Hospital officials insisted that parents would not have to evacuate their kids like during the monstrous Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when helicopters were deployed to take 100 children out of the facility.
"This is one of the safest places in town. People are calm and kids will not suffer the transfer stress," said Nurse Manager Dawn Kuerley. "They feel when they leave a warm place and that's not good at all for their health."
On its website Monday afternoon, the hospital assured that the hospital was not affected by the storm.
"As of 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) , Children's Hospital remains fully operational," it said.
"We have been experiencing heavy winds and rain since early this morning, however, the strength of the wind has decreased and there is little rain.
"Everyone in the hospital seems to be calm. In fact, it would be accurate to say that things have been uneventful."
Officials were keeping a close eye on the city's levees, which were holding up Monday three years after they breached during Hurricane Katrina, drowning the city in flood waters.
During Katrina, the Children's Hospital had no water for the whole building and was forced to close for the first time in 50 years, hospital spokesman Brian Landry said.
"Now we have safe generators, (and) we installed a 50,000 gallon diesel tank to augment the existing 20,000 gallon tank, which allows the hospital to operate on emergency power for some 28 days without refueling," he said.
"We are like a ship in the middle of the sea," Landry said. "We have everything on board and we keep working."
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