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(NO) Blame and tears...

Now I consider myself pretty de-sensitized to most things. I seldom get emotionally involved in things and look at them with a cold eye. I have been insensitive in the past when I've made logical comments which people haven't liked because of the potential consequences of the actions I was suggesting if they'd taken place.

I've seen a lot of very nasty things over the last thirty years - luckily the vast majority of them through a TV screen/PC monitor or in print in papers/books/reports. Torture victims, suicide/murders, burns, etc. I've even seen footage of hostage executions taking place in Iraq (something I'd rather forget).

But this evening I actually found myself crying as I watched footage of so many completely helpless people without food, water, clean clothes or decent shelter. Now whilst scenes like these are unfortunately common in many third world countries they are completely inexcusable in a first world country.

I think everyone has to admit that the authorities just weren't prepared, even with the warnings they were given, for the problems in New Orleans and surrounding areas. They also haven't acted anywhere near quick enough. The relief effort on the ground has tried to do as much as it can but it is so understaffed and is in dire need of supplies.

What is more amazing is that the Mayor of New Orleans has to publicly issue a 'desperate SOS' for assistance because they aren't getting it quick enough from the government (Desperate SOS for New Orleans ; BBC News Online; Thusrday 1st September 2005). I've seen so many angry people, angry Americans, on various forums and Journal posts/replies who are shocked to see the images coming out of New Orleans and are seeing so little response from Bush and the government. A growing portion of the media, both left and right, also seem to be becoming more critical over the handling of the affair too. By all accounts it took the public questioning by a very well respected CNN news reader asking where Bush was and why he was still on holiday to get prompt him back to the White House, via a fly over of New Orleans.

And now he has the audacity to ask for money to help. How much money has been spent on Iraq and the War on Terror? How many billions? The millions that were KNOWN to be needed to keep the levees and canals maintained that were diverted away from New Orleans into these fruitless ventures, that many people in New Orleans have begged to be given over the last few years, are nothing in comparison to the lives lost and the billions of dollars now needed to rebuild the city and compensate people and businesses.

Now I am all for raising money to help. Christ, I'd like to get over there and help myself! But I do get very annoyed when Bush asks for monetary help after pumping billion upon billion into foriegn wars that very few support or want, leaving his own country lacking the support to cope and handle disasters that could have been avoided by paying more attention and funds to them in the first place.

I'm just immensely glad more people seem to be getting pissed off with Bush. But let's get the people of New Orleans some food, water and to safety and then take Bush to the cleaners!


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 1st, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
What we need now is the Army Reserves... just where are they... Oh, bugger.

This shouldn't happen in a rich country with a history of extreme weather, and we shouldn't ask for voting cards before rescue. No matter how tempting it is.
Sep. 1st, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC)
Just what you said.
Sep. 1st, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that while $200 billion has been spent on the Iraq war, the budget for flood defenses in the Delta had been slashed in half, despite being warned that just such an eventuality was pretty much at the top of the "bad things likely to happen" list.

On the flip side (and hell, I'm no fan of Bush) I think things are being done, but the sheer scale of devastation and the work needed to completely evacuate a city of 1.2 million people (a little bigger than Birmingham!) dwarf even the most pessimistic expectations. I think that once a "disaster" occurred no matter how big a relief effort it wouldn't be enough.

Ironically flood defenses along the UK's coasts were a topic on the Coastline program at the weekend, with considerable time spent on the lessons learned from the Great Storm Surge of 1953 when 300 Brits and 2000-odd Dutch and Belgians were killed in the flooding.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that while $200 billion has been spent on the Iraq war, the budget for flood defenses in the Delta had been slashed in half, despite being warned that just such an eventuality was pretty much at the top of the "bad things likely to happen" list.

The levee that failed was on Lake Ponchatrain, not on the Mississippi. The big bug-a-boo of the Army Corps of Engineers is the Old River structure above Baton Rouge. They pour tons of money into that to keep the Mississippi from changing course and essentially shifting to the Atchafalaya River Basin, which would wreck the Port of Southeastern Louisiana (essentially a series of port complexes all along the river from Baton Rouge to New Orleans).

From what I've seen of the planned spending, most of the money was going much farther upriver to St. Louis and above to avoid the huge floods the midwest has seen in the last couple of decades.

You're dead on with the scope of the current crisis, though.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:36 pm (UTC)
Ah, thanks for the correction - I misunderstood about the cuts (and my knowledge of geography in the region is limited).
Sep. 1st, 2005 09:57 pm (UTC)
They've predicted this very thing happening since 2001, if not earlier.
A period of stronger hurricane activity will continue for at least another two decades and while opinion is divided it is generally accepted that climate change is increasing the force of these things.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:12 pm (UTC)
The killer hurricane scenario is nothing new. New Orleans weathermen would roll it out ever time a storm approached since the 1970s at least, invoking the spirits of Betsy and Camille. So I think the media can be partly blamed: years of boy-crying-wolfism may have caused people to ignore the evacuation order this time.

But levee failure wasn't the scenario, it was this:

Hurricane comes ashore.
Hurricane moves over Lake Ponchatrain (which is big, but only 15 ft deep in most places), scoops up water.
Hurrican moves back over New Orleans dumping Lake Ponchatrain into New Orleans proper (which is largely 15 ft below sea level).

This didn't happen, but the breach in the levee had the same effect: the Lake drained into New Orleans causing severe flooding.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC)
I think everyone has to admit that the authorities just weren't prepared, even with the warnings they were given, for the problems in New Orleans and surrounding areas. They also haven't acted anywhere near quick enough.

As someone actually from the area I don't think this is true. First, they called for an evacuation prior to the hurricane, so the people who stayed either were essential personnel (doctors and nurses at hospitals), couldn't leave or, like my mom, actually chose to stay. After living through many hurricanes down there I'm sure the largest number simply chose to stay.

Second, the hurricane itself was bad, but if the levee system had held up they wouldn't be having the problems they're having now. Many parts of New Orleans were dry after the hurricane but flooded after the levee system failed. The levees aren't just 25 ft berms: they're large, concrete-reinforced permanent structurs. They failed because of the severity of the storm. I dunno if you've seen the pictures, but there's new photographs from New Orleans and Mississippi that show highway overpasses flipped over: these are concrete structures weighing tons. How did they flip? I dunno, but I'd sure like to know: I assume it was either incredibly high winds or the storm surge. But in any case, I don't think ANYONE saw that coming.

Third, the flooding creates enormous travel probelms in the flooded areas. Some streets will be deeply flooded, but others (and intersections) may not be, so the only type of boat that can safely navigate all of the areas are the type with no draft: swamp boats. I've seen that they've got a bunch deployed, but I'm sure it can't cover everything. Without reliable transportation paths its nearly impossible to get supplies and support to people who need help. The airport (one of them) finally came back on line yesterday. Many of the heliports, even at hospitals, are flooded and can't be used. Charity Hospital (where a friend's mom and dad are essential personnel) can't take in more patients because the flooding makes it too hard to get them in the building.

Fourth, it's New Orleans. They used to call it the City That Care Forgot, but my mom always called it the City That Forgot To Care. Think that people shooting at rescue copters is new? Back when I lived there people would randomly shoot at cars on the Mississippi River Bridge from the housing projects. I'd joke that if you were visiting New Orleans you should wear a helmet, especially at New Years, because people tended to shoot their guns off in the air and tourist had died from the stray shots coming down. When I mentioned on a list a few years back that I was going to New Orleans, another native sent me a long list of saftey warnings about the town, and I thought he'd left stuff out.

Nothing that's happened there has surprised me. I've lived through hurricanes and many, many floods in the area. I haven't seen a news report about one the more gruesome problems: the area is rife with fire ants which have a painful bite. During a flood the fire ants form giant, floating piles. When the piles bump into anything (like a person or animal) they swarm all over it and bite it to death. There's no real escape: going under water doesn't help.

New Orleans is like that. I can tell you dozens of other horrific stories like that involving the hazards of a regular flood. But how the people are behaving doesn't surprise me at all.

As far as Bush being a jerk, sure, I'm with you there. But this is a collossal problem in logistics. I don't think anyone is holding anything back, but it isn't an easy problem to solve. It certainly would have been less severe if people had simply followed the evacuation order in the first place. This isn't like the tsunami or an earthquake: people knew days in advance that the storm was coming and a disturbingly large number of them simply chose to stay.

For what its worth you're dead on about the military deployment impacting this situation. The National Guard units that routinely handle hurricanes in the south (engineers, MPs, medical units, transport units) are largely in Iraq: I've seen plenty of complaints from locals (and troops in Iraq) about that wrinkle. But with the collosal scale of this, I'm not sure how much it would have helped.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
What also gets me is that with the Tsunami late last year, and in many otehr emergencies (such as the Earthquakes in Iran and Turkey) international rescue teams are on the ground very quickly. Firstly, I've not heard of any international rescue teams in the area and secondly if the US can get crack rescue teams half-way across the world in a day or so why has it taken four days (so far) to get them to New Orleans?

I have heard reports that some Canadian relief workers were refused entry to the States but haven't chased up links to that so don't know how true it is. Thus one of my earlier LJ entries asking for info.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:42 pm (UTC)
I know they're being vary cagey about letting people back in. My uncle has an office in Metarie but they won't let him in because they're not letting -anybody- back in: they're still trying to get them out.

Yesterday one of the people running the rescue effort turned away boats because he said they didn't have a staging area for them.

The tsunami was on the coast, so you can get ships there. The earthquake areas still had road access.

New Orleans isn't on the coast. It's waaaaay up-river, and there's problems navigating the river right now... in any case you couldn't get an aircraft carrier up it, frex. It's also effectively an island, surrounded by water on almost all sides. Unfortunately it looks like the storm took out some of the "bridges" that connect the city to the outside world making it really hard to get stuff in by truck. The airport only opened yesterday. If you've got no roads, you're not on the coast, and you can't fly in aid, how is it supposed to get it?

I think aid is starting to roll in now... I've seen reports of people being evac'd in C-130s, and I'm sure they didn't come in empty.

Someone else mentioned www.nola.com. If you've got a working knowledge of the city you can try and piece the truth together from that.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
Also, the current emphasis is on getting people out of the city, not bringing additional aid to them, but bringing them to aid.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
And, because I can't shut up about this:

Think to the big floods recently in the American midwest and more recently in europe. They were clearly serious if you had hippos escaping from zoos and winding up on the tops of two story buildings (Prague, IIRC).

Did that trigger widespread looting? Did Europeans or midwesterners shoot at rescue copters? Did they have cops looting stores?

New Orleans is special. VERY special.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
I was talking to a friend over in France about just that actually. It's unfortunate but I feel most American cities would end up following a similiar path which is very scarey for any natural disasters (or civil unrest/marshall law) that may hit the country in the future.
Sep. 1st, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
Los Angeles, New York, Boston... either of the coasts would be dicey. I don't think that people in Indianapolis would turn looter, though. IIRC St. Louis and the surrounding area had serious flooding a few years ago and I don't remember martial law and looting then.

New Orleans gets martial law at the tip of a hat. When the police went on strike at Mardi Gras one year they called in the National Guard, and armed soldiers patrolled the streets. It's that kind of town.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 09:57 am (UTC)
My kind of town!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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