from the Washington Post
I always thought that American disaster response would be better than the Sri Lankan, but it, um, isn’t. The scenes I’m reading about in New Orleans are about as hellish as I can imagine and the disaster response isn’t there. I mean, to have this scene in America – ‘New Orleans descended into anarchy Thursday, as corpses lay abandoned in street medians, fights and fires broke out and storm survivors battled for seats on the buses that would carry them away from the chaos. The tired and hungry seethed, saying they had been forsaken. “We are out here like pure animals,” the Rev. Issac Clark said outside the New Orleans Convention Center, where he and other evacuees had been waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead. “I’m not sure I’m going to get out of here alive,” said tourist Larry Mitzel of Saskatoon, Canada. “I’m scared of riots. I’m scared of the locals. We might get caught in the crossfire.”‘ Nothing ever got this bad in post-tsunami Sri Lanka. With the bloated Department of Homeland Security it’s just unconscionable that things could get so out of hand.
One crucial difference is that the Tsunami came and left, no Sri Lankan cities were actually underwater. Second, once the levees broke New Orleans simply filled up like a bowl, whereas Sri Lankan devastation was largely 100-300m deep. Those factors made Sri Lankan recovery easier. However, Katrina should still be better managed than this. The US has the advantages of 1) being America 2) effective national transportation 3) 5 days warning. I’m not a knee-jerk Bush basher, but in this case he has simply failed, and he’s lying. Compare his quote to this map by the Corps of Engineers.
I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate a serious storm but these levees got breached and as a result much of New Orleans is flooded and now we’re having to deal with it and will. â€” President George W. Bush (Good Morning America)
Are you fucking retarded? Every model anticipated the levees being breached by a Category 4-5 hurricane. A 5 year old could figure that out. The fact that levees exist at all shows that the Crescent City has tenuous relationship with the surrounding waters. “The Corps of Engineers, along with Louisiana State University (LSU), and the authorities in Jefferson Parish have modeled the effects and aftermath of a Category 5 strike on New Orleans. The outcome was an unprecedented disaster, with extensive loss of life and property. The key problem is an effect called “filling the bowl”, when the hurricane drives water into Lake Pontchartrain, which overwhelms weaker levees bordering Pontchartrain and canals leading to it and flows into the below-sea-level city accompanied by water overtopping the levees along the Mississippi on the south side of the city center. The tall levee walls surrounding New Orleans then prevent the water from naturally draining back out to sea. (Wikipedia)” Also, the University of New Orleans predicted the same thing after hurricane Ivan. Countless people have predicted the current disaster, as taken from this list on Wikipedia.
* The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an award-winning five-part series called Washing Away that covered various scenarios (including a Category 5 hurricane hitting the city from the south) and explored the various environmental changes that have increased the area’s vulnerability. One article in the series concluded: “Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins.”
* The American Prospect carried “Thinking Big About Hurricanes” on May 23, 2005. That article described the likely aftermath of a major storm surge. “Soon the geographical “bowl” of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops — terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.”
* Popular Mechanics ran a story in September of 2001 called New Orleans Is Sinking discussing what might happen if a hurricane of this size landed on New Orleans.
* Scientific American published an article by Mark Fischetti in October of 2001 called Drowning New Orleans. This article begins, “A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Misssissippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city…New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen.”
* The National Geographic Magazine published a feature in its October 2004 issue titled Gone With the Water. The article’s primary focus is on the destuction of the Mississippi delta’s wetlands and the effects that this has on the region’s ability to withstand a hurricane (in addition to ecological and social impacts). The article begins with a haunting hypothetical worst-case scenario.
* The PBS science show Nova aired an episode on the hurricane threat to New Orleans in January 2005, including interviews with New Orleans officials and scientists involved in the LSU study. The episode is avaliable for online viewing here.
* The June 2005 FX docudrama Oil Storm depicted a category 4 hurricane hitting New Orleans that forced residents to evacuate and hide out in the Superdome. It went on to speculate about a national economic meltdown caused by the decreased oil supply.
By the time there’s a docudrama I think you’ve had adequate warning. For the love of God, there’s a Led Zepplin song about the Levee breaking. Furthermore, after 9/11 American Homeland Security should’ve some attention to long-identified threats like New Orleans sinking, San Francisco, etc. They did the contrary, however, according to Sidney Blumenthal on BBC’s “The World” 2005/09/01. “He claimed that the Bush Administration had specifically diverted tens of millions of US$ in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from water and storm protection efforts to be used instead by the Corps in Iraq. ” In addition to the Engineers, the 1/3 of the Louisiana National Guard is in Iraq, along with a sizable amount of their equipment. Plus plus, FEMA has been cannibalized and rendered ineffective. Bush has wilfully made America weaker at home and the New Orleans mayor is reduced to sending out an SOS on CNN.
Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans’s emergency operations, said the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was inadequate and that Louisiana officials have been overwhelmed.
“This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control,” Ebbert told the Associated Press as he watched refugees evacuate the Superdome yesterday. “We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can’t bail out the city of New Orleans. We have got a mayor who has been pushing and asking, but we’re not getting supplies.”
It’s just embarassing because there was never this level of sheer anarchy after the Tsunami. In Sri Lanka the government is dysfunctional to start with, but the refugee situation never degenerated to this level. There was definitely a lack of preparedness and warning, but people got the food and water they needed. However, in the United States people are still stranded, hungry, thirsty, and dying. Like, wtf is this letter?
my dad is stranded with about 400 other people at Methodist Hospital in New Orleans East. The company that runs the hospital has been trying to get supplies in, but FEMA has apparently turned them away, taken the supplies to be used elsewhere. The evacuation is running slowly and it is taking days to get all 700 people out of the hospital. The situation is very dangerous because of the alligators and snakes in the water and the lack of supplies and the sheer chaos that has taken over the city.
You have a hospital surrounded by alligators and the wholesale breakdown of law and order? In America? Since when is American disaster relief worse than the Third World? But there’s plenty of debate online (via Slate). I guess the important point is that my prayers are with all the people left hot, homeless and suffering – just as their prayers were with us. It’s just that all the governments involved can eat it – especially the American, which should know better.