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Cemeteries sinking, washing away as Louisiana struggles with storms, coastal erosion

  • 600ab6b45ec38900250f6a706700569a.jpg

    In this Dec. 29, 2012 photo, water washes around and against the tombs of those buried in a Leeville, La., cemetery. What's left of the old Leeville cemetery is only accessible by boat. Some headstones are barely visible above the water, and waves lap at the bricks and concrete surrounding caskets buried at the site since the late 1800s. Much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level, and during Hurricane Isaac, about seven feet of land washed away in the tidal surge. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (The Associated Press)

  • 3a750fe35ec48900250f6a70670062f7.jpg

    In this Dec. 29, 2012 photo, water washes around and against the tombs of those buried in a Leeville, La., cemetery. What's left of the old Leeville cemetery is only accessible by boat. Some headstones are barely visible above the water, and waves lap at the bricks and concrete surrounding caskets buried at the site since the late 1800s. Much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level, and during Hurricane Isaac, about seven feet of land washed away in the tidal surge. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (The Associated Press)

  • e6cde4855ec38900250f6a7067005486.jpg

    In this Dec. 29, 2012 photo, water washes around an infant's tomb in a Leeville, La., cemetery. What's left of the old Leeville cemetery is only accessible by boat. Some headstones are barely visible above the water, and waves lap at the bricks and concrete surrounding caskets buried at the site since the late 1800s. Much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level, and during Hurricane Isaac, about seven feet of land washed away in the tidal surge. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (The Associated Press)

  • c5b72b1a5ec38900250f6a7067000780.jpg

    This Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 photo shows a small family cemetery along the bayou near Leeville, La. Some 11 cemeteries in Jefferson Parish have repeatedly flooded since Katrina, and in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes, more than a dozen others have succumbed to tidal surges. Much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level, and during Hurricane Isaac, about seven feet of land washed away in the tidal surge. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (The Associated Press)

  • 770095a75ec48900250f6a706700a5dc.jpg

    In this Dec. 29, 2012 photo, water washes around the tombs of those buried in a Leeville, La., cemetery. What's left of the old Leeville cemetery is only accessible by boat. Some headstones are barely visible above the water, and waves lap at the bricks and concrete surrounding caskets buried at the site since the late 1800s. Much of the ground has subsided to barely sea level, and during Hurricane Isaac, about seven feet of land washed away in the tidal surge. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) (The Associated Press)

As a young adult, Kathleen Cheramie visited her grandmother's grave in a tree-lined cemetery where white concrete crosses dotted a plot of lush green grass just off Louisiana Highway 1.

Now, the cemetery in Leeville is a skeleton of its former self. The few trees still standing have been killed by saltwater intruding from the Gulf. Their leafless branches are suspended above marsh grass left brown and soggy from saltwater creeping up from beneath the graves.

Cheramie's small family graveyard is among at least two dozen cemeteries across the southeast Louisiana coast that are rapidly sinking or washing away because of erosion and subsidence accelerated by the tropical punch of storms.

Officials say not much can be done to save the cemeteries or the sinking communities that surround them.

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