DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) — Two years after floodwaters ripped through the Plainview Cemetery, carrying off burial vaults and disrupting bodies, the cemetery has finally reopened.

The Advocate newspaper reports the cemetery reopened Monday; it was one of 74 cemeteries damaged during the August 2016 flooding.

The cemetery, which sits a little less than half a mile (.8 kilometers) from the Amite River, was one of the most severely damaged. The rain-swelled river overflowed its banks, flooded the cemetery and carried off burial vaults.

"It's looking better. It's looking good. It's looking real good," said Donald Boyd, 64, of Denham Springs, who came to visit some of his relatives' graves when the cemetery reopened.

The cemetery was shut while officials and forensic scientists tried to identify the bodies and put them back where they belonged.

Louisiana's Attorney General's Office, which coordinates repairs for disaster-damaged cemeteries, said about 260 to 300 graves were disturbed by the floods and 119 bodies had to be identified.

The cemetery is the final resting place of some of Livingston's most prominent black leaders, including West Livingston School Principal Louise Lockhart, and it was the first site of Roberts United Methodist Church.

Ruth Wisher, a spokeswoman for the AG's office, said in a statement 70 of the 74 cemeteries damaged by the flood have been returned to their pre-storm condition. Two, including Plainview, are close to completion, and two others are still in the recovery process.

State officials documented the remains inside the displaced tombs and compared clues they found such as name tags and funeral outfits with memories from local residents. The cost of the new vaults and re-interring the caskets was mostly paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Friends and family of people whose graves had been disturbed could also apply for help repairing the graves and then the money was given to parish officials to complete the work.

Fred Banks, the cemetery committee chairman, said all but 15 of the bodies have been identified. The unidentified remains have been placed inside concrete vaults with metal tags bearing the words "Unidentified," ''Great Flood 2016" and an identification number. The vaults will be cemented to a slab in the back of the cemetery for people to visit.


Information from: The Advocate,