Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore briefs reporters about conditions in southwestern Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. It is bleak….at least for quite a number of years. It looks like we are going to be having another Louisiana Purchase.

CAMERON, La. (AP) - The coastline of southwestern Louisiana will take years to restore after Hurricane Rita unearthed graves, ripped apart levees and infected farmland with saltwater, the commander of the military relief effort said Thursday.

Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore took a handful of reporters along Thursday for a helicopter tour of the area.

“How bad is it? You’ve got saltwater in places that was fresh water. You’ve got significant impact on the roads, electrical and sewer. You’ve got levee problems along the coastline,” Honore said.

In some fields, sugarcane was bent over for as far as the eye could see. Farm equipment was stranded in fields, and wood and sheet metal siding was sprinkled across marshland.

“The entire coastline of Louisiana will take years to restore,” Honore said. “Hopefully this disaster will be an opportunity for them to make it better.”

Some cemeteries looked like grave-robbers had struck, cracking open crypts and scattering remains. National Guard Gen. Michael Terry said 15 morticians were trying to clean up the mess created when Rita’s storm surge washed over burial grounds.

Sugarcane farmers said they were concerned about saltwater and debris that landed in their fields and smashed their crops.

Errol Domingues lost about half his 4,200 acres of sugarcane, worth about $2 million, when the farm was inundated with saltwater from the Gulf, about 15 miles away. He said he would likely have to sell off his cattle, because feed was ruined by saltwater. The brackish water also cost him his crawfish pond.

In Cameron Parish, near the Texas border, relief workers were setting up a tent city near the beach, where officials could sleep, shower and work as they try to get basic operations of government running again.

A primary concern there was a shortage of gasoline. Until fuel supplies are readily available, it is impossible to even set up distribution sites for food and water because people who lost their homes and businesses have no gas to get there.

But residents had not yet returned. The only people present were soldiers in fatigues who were clearing debris and a few relief workers.

Honore said some levees had been eroding for years and were much less effective than in previous storms. “The levee systems are all questionable,” he said.