Courtesy Knight Ridder News:
It is still too early to tell how extensive Hurricane Katrina's damage is to coastal Mississippi's seafood industry. But a search for oyster fishermen in Hancock County's rural Claremont Harbor turned up communities essentially wiped away.
In a scene played out again and again on many streets, just slabs are left on many streets that held homes less than a week ago.
On streets intersecting Lakeshore Road, no debris is left around those slabs, just a few stilts stick out of the ground at odd angles, like daisies with their blossoms snipped. In another area, wooden structures again left no trace of their existence, while cinder block ones fell around their foundations like disassembled Legos.
Cows roamed the deserted roads, set free from their pastures when winds broke fences.
Neighbors said a few of the oystermen took their boats to safe harbor in Bienville, but they were not sure of the outcome.
Katrina's hours of tornado-like winds were enough to scuttle boats in the water and send some a mile or more inland.
In some of the waterways that run parallel to the little streets, the skeletal remains of oyster boats stick straight up out of the water, their bows buried deep in the mud-- tombstones to a deceased fishing community.
Just east of a bridge on Cowan Lorraine Road, many shrimp boats tried to take safe harbor in Bernard Bayou. At least eight ran aground from swelling water and wind. Now they wait for the bridges to open, bridges that stand between them and the Mississippi Sound, where a living shrimp population hopefully still exists.
"We don't know if we'll be able to catch shrimp," said Anh Phan, a Vietnamese shrimper who immigrated here in 1978. Her boat suffered no damage during the storm. "We're so worried."
Dead fish floated at the water's surface, maybe dead from the storm, or the chemicals and diesel that surely made their way into the bayou.
"If storm didn't come, we'd be outside catching shrimp," she said. "We never seen anything big like that ever."