PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- U.S. Navy Seabees are building a "tent city" in what's left of this devastated coastal town to house 1,000 people rendered homeless by the impact of Hurricane Katrina.
Some 250 Seabees from detachments across the United States have gathered behind the city's War Memorial Park, where they're also constructing a temporary police department headquarters and other municipal offices as government leaders organize plans to rebuild the town they lost.
The tent city, a sign of life in a beachfront resort town otherwise in shambles, will have basic necessities from a laundromat to a place to relax and socialize, Seabees said.
"The Seabees have done 90 percent of everything that's been done down here," said Carol Nichols, the international programs manager at the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command and a Pass Christian resident who is helping recovery efforts. "These guys are busting their butts."
"[Compared to training operations,] the work Seabees are doing has "definitely more of a serious meaning here to get people off the streets," said Equipment Operator 1st Class Edward Foss, of Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 based at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.
A month after the storm, much of Pass Christian looks like the aftermath of a war zone. Authorities continue to recover the remains of newly found victims.
"After seeing all that, the work is pretty easy because you know what you're here for," said Equipment Operator Constructionman Apprentice James W.C. Adams, also of the CBMU 202.
"I figured it'd be something you'd see overseas," the Portageville, Mo., native said. "You never imagine the U.S. would be hit like this."
Seabees at Construction Battalion Center Gulfport are pre-assembling materials their brethren in outlying communities are then erecting.
Pass Christian residents have watched the Seabees play a major role in restoring the basics for daily life.
"They're here in the morning, and they're here late," said Paula Dedeaux, a local resident. "They make it
look like something's getting done here. They don't complain, either."
City Police Chief John Dubuisson said the Seabees' "Can Do" spirit has led them to do everything from remove debris from patrol cars to clean yards.
"You can see the progress these guys are making on a daily basis," he said. "These guys are hustling."
Seabees have answered the call to duty in Pass Christian before. The naval construction teams performed a similar feat after Hurricane Camille struck the town hard in 1969, remembered Dubuisson, a city native.
"I don't know what [the town] would have done if [the Seabees] weren't here," he said.
For the latest Navy news on hurricane relief efforts, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/hurricane/.