Hundreds of volunteers risked their own lives to rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, and many of those volunteers are part of a group known as the Cajun Navy.
Founded in 2005 in Lafayette, Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Cajun Navy is a volunteer initiative comprised of civilians who want to go out and help those affected by disaster. Most volunteers have shallow-drive boats that can maneuver flood waters easily, and that is where their name was coined.
“Some guys got out in boats and rescued people,” says Clyde “Admiral” Cain, an organizer for the Louisiana Cajun Navy. “We all have boats all over Louisiana for duck hunting, and they got coined the Cajun Navy. It was a term someone used, and I guess it was kind of a joke.”
The Cajun Navy’s involvement with the relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey were significant. They helped deliver over 11,000 meals in 11 days after Harvey and saved hundreds of lives by rescuing people from their flooded homes.
Since 2005, it’s estimated the Cajun Navy has saved over 10,000 disaster victims.
For Cain, this relief effort was one that hit close to home. His brother lives in Port Arthur, and he decided to gear up and come in the Sunday night before the storm hit.
“We started deploying the next morning and for about five days we went and rescued people wherever,” says Cain.
Volunteers rescued people trapped in their homes, got them to safe, high ground and repeated that cycle as many times as they could.
Some rescuers even saved people as they were passing by on their boats.
The work done by the Cajun Navy during Hurricane Harvey is immeasurable, and organizers like Cain hope their efforts create a nationwide movement.
“I hope we inspire others to do this kind of grass-roots organization,” says Cain. “It’s just what you are supposed to do, help others.”
The Louisiana Cajun Navy acts under Good Samaritan law and is currently focusing on taking calls from Harvey victims and directing them to different resources available to help.
“The ideal [of the Cajun Navy] is this: that we all work together during a time of crisis, that we join in and be volunteers, that you lay down your ideals and be there to help,” says Cain.