Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina - aftermath of rapes, shootings & looting


George Bush visits New Orleans on Friday
Seven days have passed since hurricane Katrina passed over Louisiana and across Mississippi. The picture is of complete devastation. Thousands dead, many trapped, many dying. It took near to four days before relief arrived. Conditions at the Superdome, the only sanctuary to those unable to flee, were described as horrendous. Strong criticism has been laid at the door of the US authorities for not having organised evacuations and relief to survivors better. Much of the population of New Orleans is black and poor and there is a sense that the poor effort to help them was due to the authorities not caring enough. There was also lack of caring amongst those left behind. Britons returned to the UK with stories of rapes, shootings, stabbings and suicides. Many were shocked that such lawlessness prevailed after the hurricane passed by. “It’s not as if it’s a third world country”, said one parent of a British holiday maker. Some 130 Britons are still unaccounted for and criticism has been targeted at British diplomats for not having done more. For those that had escaped the devastation and returned to England, their anger was the authorities was vociferous. “I have no confidence in the British Government, they are not doing enough for people out there, and people are still missing,” said Wayne Henry, 48, a police officer who flew to Louisiana to find his son Peter. He had received a text message from Peter saying that he was stuck in the Superdome. Criticism has also been voiced against the Bush administration for not having acted more swiftly to the disaster. Both administrations have dismissed the criticism saying that the disaster was unprecedented and that all that could be done was being done. As well as President George W. Bush and British PM Tony Blair making statements, George Bush senior and Bill Clinton also appeared on television Monday to give their support for relief efforts. Many will see their appearances as patronizing speeches, capitalizing on the disaster.

Most New Orleans residents have now been evacuated but helicopter operations to rescue people still trapped are continuing throughout the city. Some residents are being allowed to return to their homes to assess damage and retrieve possessions. What remains is the rebuilding of a city destroyed. Levies need to be rebuilt before pumping of water from the city can even begin. And the cost will be astronomical. The destruction of Kobe, Japan by an earthquake in 1993 was almost total and cost $150 billion. The rebuilding of New Orleans may cost far more.

The cost to the economy will also be great. Oil production in the US has been hard hit by the hurricane and $3 per gallon is already been seen in many places.
In the UK fuel prices have increased at the pump with diesel now at £0.99.9 a litre in many rural fuel stops.

But the cost in lives is incalculable. Estimates are as high as 10,000 dead, and millions displaced.
[14:24 GMT 05/09/2005]

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