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BBC article

on September 2, 2005

Article from the BBC news website follows:

Questions grow over rescue chaos
In New Orleans, state officials have described the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a national disgrace.And increasingly across the country, questions are being asked: “How could this happen?” “Why is help taking so long?” and “How can thousands of Americans be stranded?”.

President George Bush is to visit some of the devastated areas of the south on Friday amid growing anger towards the federal response to the disaster.

Emergency response officials insist their response has been fast and effective – rejecting widespread criticisms that the administration was too slow to react to the crisis. There has also been criticism from opposition politicians and members of the public that spending on the war on Iraq diverted money away from flood-control projects.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has angrily accused Washington of not having a clue about what was going on.
On Thursday he issued what he called a “desperate SOS” for help for up to 20,000 refugees stuck in a convention centre in New Orleans which he said was “unsanitary and unsafe” and running out of supplies.

On Friday, authorities in Louisiana were trying to crank up the rescue operation. Conveys of school buses were trying to ferry out the thousands of people sheltering in the convention centre and the nearby New Orleans Superdome amid the filth and the dead.

The questions being asked focus on why it has taken so long to get those buses on the road – and why thousands of people sheltering in the places where they were told to take refuge are now going hungry and thirsty.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco says she has asked for a “Berlin drop” of food and water.

In an interview with Good Morning America on Friday, she said that they were finally starting to see the response from the federal authorities.

Much of the frustration has been directed at the national authority, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

The head of the New Orleans emergency operations, Terry Ebbert, has described the relief effort as a national disgrace and questioned when reinforcements would actually reach the increasingly lawless city.
“This is a national disgrace. Fema has been here three days, yet there is no command and control,” Mr Ebbert said.
“We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can’t bail out the city of New Orleans.”

One man, George Turner, who was still waiting to be evacuated, summed up much of the anger felt by the refugees.

“Why is it that the most powerful country on the face of the Earth takes so long to help so many sick and so many elderly people,” he asked.

“Why? That’s all I want to ask President Bush.”

And John Rhinehart, the administrator of a New Orleans hospital without power and water, said: “I’m beginning to wonder if the government is more concerned about the looting than people who are dying in these hospitals.”

There is widespread agreement among commentators that somewhere there has been a breakdown in the system.

The Biloxi Sun Herald in Mississippi asked: “Why hasn’t every able-bodied member of the armed forces in south Mississippi been pressed into service?”

And on Friday the Washington Post wrote: “Though experts had long predicted that the city, which sits below sea level and is surrounded by water, would face unprecedented devastation after an immense hurricane, they said problems were worsened by a late evacuation order and insufficient emergency shelter for as many as 100,000 people.

Volunteer effort

The BBC’s Jamie Coomarasamy in Baton Rouge says that on the ground in some areas, it is largely volunteers, including those from the Red Cross and other organisations, who are leading the relief efforts.
But he said these efforts were fairly haphazard, with local radio and television stations putting out requests for people to do what they could.

Fema head Michael D Brown has defended the federal response, saying that his agency had prepared for the storm, but that the widespread flooding had hampered the operation.
He said personnel, equipment, supplies, trucks and search-and-rescue teams were positioned in the region ahead of the hurricane, the Washington Post quoted him as saying.

“What the American people need to understand is that the full force of the federal government is bringing all of those supplies in, in an unprecedented effort that has not been seen even in the tsunami region,” he said.

“I was in the tsunami region, and this response is incredibly more efficient, more effective and under the most difficult circumstances.”

Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator has written to US ambassador to the UN John Bolton offering help.

“I understand people’s frustration, but I also know from bitter experience that this, the fifth and the sixth and the seventh days are always among the worst, because it is before you reach, really, the largest amount of people,” he told the BBC.

“Could more have been done? I would say every society in the world is not preparing adequately for catastrophic events. Disaster prevention is something that we are campaigning for all over the world, and I would say no society is fully prepared for all eventualities.”

Bolds mine – I can’t believe some people still claim that everything possible was done beforehand to protect people and get them out of there. If it was, how come there are still school buses sitting around in the city? I’m disgusted.
More stuff here:

I also find it amusing, in a really cynical sort of way, that the EU – where oil prices are and have always been about twice as high as they are in the US – is even willing to release its petroleum reserves in order to help. After all, God forbid anyone in the US should have to pay what we do over here for fuel…
Funny how when we refuse to participate in a war we don’t believe in, people yell and swear at us and break bottles of Bordeaux wine in the streets and generally act like the French are the spawn of Satan, as well as trying to blackmail us into it by saying how the USA “rescued” us over 50 years ago, as if that were relevant. But then when something goes badly wrong in the US, not only do we not yell and swear at them or remind them how they were reviling us the year before last, but we’re willing to get in there, send over supplies which we could actually use here to cope with our own flooding and droughts, and release our petroleum reserves without a qualm whilst saying, and I quote from the EU head of foreign policy: “Whatever they ask for they will be given, from reserves of oil that different countries have provided, to any other thing they may need.” (Perhaps this is to do with the fact that in Europe we feel that lives are important – whether those of our own soldiers or those of other nations’ civilians.)

And after this, there are still people saying that we should be doing more? That we have double standards? No, double standards would be what the people have who think the rest of the world – I include Venezuela, President Bush’s best buddy-state, in this – should be doing even more to help and doing it faster, as if we didn’t also have our own problems to deal with. As if, in fact, nothing important ever happens outside America. Which, to be fair, according to most American news networks (including CNN “World”), it doesn’t.


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