Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina - the slow clear up begins

Two weeks on and the scene in New Orleans is still one of devastation. Rescue efforts are all but complete, and the process of collecting the dead is now under way. The official death toll stands at just over five hundred. George W. Bush made his third visit to the disaster zone and pledged his full support to the relief effort. His promises may seem weak after the authority’s failure to mobilize relief following the hurricane. “They can send 18,000 troops to Iraq in 48 hours but can’t provide relief for days” said one irate resident of Louisiana speaking on CNN earlier today. FEMA was also highly criticized culminating in the ‘resignation’ of FEMA director, Mike Brown [CNN]. George W Bush was earlier quoted as saying, “Brown you’re doing a heck of a job”. However besides a warning from the National Weather Service a day before the storm hit a breakdown in communication failed to bring an appropriate response. Even city Mayor Ray Nagin is now being criticized after it emerged that an offer of staff from AmTrak to provide drivers for buses was turned down. The buses were eventually submerged in flood waters, driverless and unable to ferry the potential evacuees to the awaiting trains which left empty.
Mistakes were not just confined to large organizations. CNN Newsnight reported that a failure to instigate an evacuation of a nursing home resulted in several deaths. Thirty four died at St Ritas nursing home, Drew Griffin for CNN reported. And as the slow and grim removal of the dead from the streets begins, the story becomes all the more difficult to tell. FEMA had earlier ruled that a ban on the filming of the removal of bodies should be put in place. CNN challenged the ruling, and won. But besides a court ruling and legal documents allowing CNN to film the removal of bodies, troops constantly blocked the path of their reporters and cameramen. “This is part of the story”, says Anderson Cooper, “especially as the authorities have left these bodies for some two weeks before beginning to deal with them.”
Carolina is now braced for strong winds as the dissipating storm that was hurricane Ophelia makes landfall. Heavy rain is forecast along with winds of between 50 and 100 kph.
CNN’s Larry King Live ended with the rolling strap of websites connected to the aid response; Second Harvest.org, Missingkids.com and bushclintonkatrinafund.com.

[02:34 GMT 13/09/2005]

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