Friday, September 02, 2005

being prepared

marjorie says…

The size of the devastation is reportedly 90,000 square miles, larger than Great Britain. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the federal response is incredibly late, incredibly inadequate.

And we can NOT say that this horror, this tragedy is a surprise. Here is an excerpt from an article ran in the Houston Chronicle in December 2001 predicting exactly what we are seeing now:

DECEMBER 2001, The Foretelling of a Deadly Disaster:

New Orleans is sinking.

And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster.

So vulnerable, in fact, that earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country.

The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.

The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all.

In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.

Economically, the toll would be shattering.

Southern Louisiana produces one-third of the country's seafood, one-fifth of its oil and one-quarter of its natural gas. The city's tourism, lifeblood of the French Quarter, would cease to exist. The Big Easy might never recover.

The horror of this tragedy shows the consequences of downsizing the social supports and safety nets that have been painstakingly constructed over decades. Case in point: FEMA. Our Federal Emergency Management Agency has been systematically dismantled since 9/11 in favor of the construction of the Department of Homeland Security, which is focused on Terrorism. What are we hearing from that Department in all of this? Nada. It’s FEMA this, FEMA that.

How could this happen in a Western country?

The U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, said Katrina was one of history's most damaging natural disasters. He said it had caused more destruction than last year's December 26 tsunami that killed an estimated 180,000 across southern Asia, AP reported.

In the Netherlands, much of which lies below sea level as in New Orleans, there was some consternation that the Louisiana city was so poorly prepared, AP reported.

The nation installed massive hydraulic sea walls known as the Delta Works after devastating floods in 1953.

"I don't want to sound overly critical, but it's hard to imagine that [the damage caused by Katrina] could happen in a Western country," Ted Sluijter, press spokesman for Neeltje Jans, the public park where the Delta Works are exhibited, was reported as saying by AP.

"It seemed like plans for protection and evacuation weren't really in place, and once it happened, the coordination" was poor.

From the Houston Chronicle:

In a statement on CNN, New Orleans Mayor Nagin said Thursday: "This is a desperate SOS.

"Right now, we are out of resources at the convention center and don't anticipate enough buses. We need buses. Currently, the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe and we're running out of supplies."

Said refugee Kevin Clark, 10, who was at the shelter with his 68-year-old grandfather, "I'm scared. I slept on the ground last night. I don't have anything to eat. I haven't eaten since Monday."

From the BBC

The BBC's Matt Frei, in New Orleans, says conditions in the city's convention centre, where up to 20,000 more are stranded, are the most wretched he has seen anywhere, including crises in the Third World.

"You've got an entire nursing home evacuated five days ago - people in wheelchairs sitting there and slowly dying," he says.