According to a recent update on Gustav from the Army Corps of Engineers, there are at least four barges and one 500-foot boat loose in New Orlean's Industrial Canal just north of the Florida Avenue Bridge. A Corps official says the vessels could damage the canal's walls, but the water is still too high for him to safely secure them.

Water is sloshing over the flood wall on the city side of the canal but the structure is still holding, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

It's surprising to learn there were unsecured vessels in the Industrial Canal with a serious storm approaching, given the harsh lessons of Katrina. During the 2005 disaster, an empty barge owned by Ingram Barge Co. and under charter by Lafarge North America made its way from the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet canal to the Industrial Canal. There the barge (left), which was larger than most houses, either floated through or possibly caused a breach in a flood wall and ended up in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, smashing homes (below), cars and other property over several city blocks.

A class-action lawsuit claimed negligence on Ingram's part, arguing the company had no written hurricane plan and made an executive-level decision against securing the barge, while nearby residents reported hearing the vessel scraping against the intact floodwall and then watched it crash through. Earlier this year, however, a federal judge exonerated the company of any liability.


(First photo: Fire Department Chaplain Mike Chappell stands next to the Ingram barge after Katrina/FEMA photo by Andrea Booher. Second photo: The New Orleans home of Marenthia Lagarde and Deloris Jones was crushed by the barge/FEMA photo by Marvin Nauman.)