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'It's almost like a warzone' : Cajun Navy founder describes destruction seen in Florida as they help survivors of Hurricane Ian

"Behind that pile of debris is a real person who just lost everything,' Rob Gaudet, Cajun Navy founder, said.

BEAUMONT, Texas — The founder of a disaster relief non-profit organization described the devastation seen in Florida as crews work to help survivors of Hurricane Ian.

Ian made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. State officials said the powerful storm left parts of Florida “not habitable," left hundreds of thousands without power and claimed more than 70 lives.

So far, more than 1,100 rescues have been performed, according to Governor Ron DeSantis.

In addition to rescue and recovery efforts, organizations are also helping those who lost everything.

One organization helping those in need is the Cajun Navy. The Cajun Navy is a Louisiana-based disaster relief non-profit organization.

"We are just across the bridge from Fort Myers beach, which is, I think, considered the most heavily impacted community from this entire disaster,” Rob Gaudet, Cajun Navy founder, said. “There's a lot of fatalities there. It's very tragic."

To Gaudet, the destruction seen in Fort Meyers could almost be compared to a battlefield.

"It's surreal,” Gaudet said. “There's a boat sitting in a gas station. You just see things that are out of place in a normal world. It's almost like a warzone. It's similar to that."

Cajun Navy members and others are setting up Swift Action Force Emergency, or SAFE, Camps to get supplies to survivors. 

"There’s no power,” Gaudet said. “There’s no water. They don’t want you to bathe in this water right now, so what can you do? You can come to SAFE camp, and we're going to feed you, make sure you have water."

When it comes to their efforts, it’s a matter of organizing the chaos and helping people through the most difficult time of their lives.

This is the fifth time in 2022 that the Cajun Navy was deployed to help communities following a natural disaster. No matter where they went, people were always ready to help. 

"Every culture is different, and yet, they're the same,” Gaudet said. “The same heart to help. People roll up their sleeves and put a smile on their face to help people facing their darkest hour."

Tragedies brought by natural disasters are nothing new to Gaudet. Hurricane Ian reminds him of Hurricane Ida, which hit his home state of Louisiana in 2021.

"And we're driving down this community, and I look over and she's crying, and I said, ‘Camille what's wrong,’” Gaudet said. “And she said, ‘It's so much destruction.’ And I felt bad, because I was like you're right, you know, you kind of forget that."

Gaudet hopes people see the damage and devastation Hurricane Ian brought to Florida and want to help.

"Behind that pile of debris, is a real person, who just lost everything, and needs a helping hand to get started,” Gaudet said. “And there's simple things anybody can do to help them get started and it's not skilled labor. This is basic stuff."   

As the mission continues in Fort Meyers, the Cajun Navy is asking for the communities help. Those who want to can find out how to help on their website.

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