Just in case it's still not sinking in…

By Risa Wechsler | September 2, 2005 12:58 am

More than half a million have lost their homes. Millions are without power. More than 20,000 people are missing. People are starting to estimate the dead in the thousands. I just heard a big tough guy on CNN crying, saying he saw bodies floating past his door as the water rose. People still in New Orleans are starting to smell the dead bodies floating in the water. There are still 20,000 people in the Superdome, where rapes have been reported, the plumbing no longer works, there’s essentially no fresh water, they haven’t eaten in days, and dysentery and cholera are expected to be rampant soon. Several other small communites have been obliterated. The Houston Astrodome is now full of refugees and turning people away. An expert in disasters was CNN was asked to estimate when people would be able to start moving back into New Orleans, and she said the best case scenario was several months, more realistic estimate was on the order of years. It’s really just hard to fathom.

I’m always amazed at Wikipedia’s response to unfolding events. The Katrina Page is no exception.

  • Selgena

    Yes,why did they stay? But now that question is irrelevant.
    What I would like to know, why aren’t these hotel’s helping out? Why doesn’t the gov’t say “hey, put these people up and here’s a couple of 100,000, or so? Why can’t we get some of our troops home to help out?
    Forget about rebuilding. I don’t believe they could get that water out. The people need to be settled somewhere else, let’s get real.
    It’s so heartbreaking. I can’t watch it anymore. It’s not “devastating”…it’s a catastrophic horror!!

  • http://that1blog.blogspot.com/ DrMax

    Bush’s remark about not knowing about the levees being in danger this morning shows what kind of leader we have. Is the guy really this removed? He has no aides to help him out? Nobody could give him a heads up on Saturday or Sunday on what might be in store if only one of the levees break? Aid to this area should have been initiated then if not earlier. As I was watching on Monday and glad to see the city was still dry, I assumed Federal and State officials were all over that levee system to check them out, but I guess not. That was one whole evacuation day lost. This is historic, I’m not sure how this country will ever be able to look African Americans in the eye again if the death toll keeps rising. We should be ashamed of ourselves, and so should George W. Bush.

  • http://impropaganda.blogspot.com Suz

    Thanks, Risa for all these posts.

  • Andrei

    Well, the truth is, there nothing one can do against natural disasters of this scale. And there is nothing one can do against people becoming animial-like seflish half-human beings in such difficult situations. This is the most disturbing part of this tragedy. They not only kill each other for food, but also rape, shoot people etc. for no reason. There, true human nature. Its hard to accept that we can be such animals. And Bushas much as I dislike him, has nothing to do with this.
    And what will happen with these people? I bet very soon – after a month or so – they will be treated as second-sort people in this country; understanding , care, compassion etc will quickly change to anger, none of them will be welcome anywhere, they will be one big problem for the entire country. Future presidential campaign will shift its focus from Iraq and terrorists to “Katrina aftermath solution” projects.
    They have no homes, no jobs, nothing. The worst is still ahead.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Andrei, I think you might want to read a bit more about the facts before you say this. The fact is that those “half-humans” (a highly objectionable term, I note) are operating in a situation that has been made much worse by lack of preparation on the one hand and lack of prompt and sensible action on the other. The people enduring this chaos (both those responsible for inexcusable violence, and the victims thrown in with them) are people who could not afford to evacuate the city under their own steam, whether they wante to or not. They are the poor people of colour (as usual) that are the lowest on any list of priorities when it comes to resources and infrastructure, whether there is a dsiaster or not.

    So what you say (“nothing one can do against natural disasters of this scale”) is, with respect, largely ignorant bull. I’m sure that you did not mean it, so please look again at the situation and the background.



  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    1. There was plenty that could be done to mitigate hurricane disasters in New Orleans – the scientists and engineers have had the plans available for years, what was missing is the political will and leadership.

    2. We have to acknowledge the failure if we are to do better. Put it this way, the Federal and State governments, with a day or two of advance notice, are unable to evacuate of the order of 100,000 helpless people from a hazardous environment. If there is a disaster in New York City (such as terrorist attack with a dirty radioactive bomb or toxins that make the place unsafe for people to stay) and of the order of a million people have to be evacuated, what then?

    3. Homeland Security is a joke.

    4. I believe the US Armed Forces’ response to the Indonesian earthquake and Asian tsunami was faster and more effective (or the press releases were better) than what is happening in Lousiana and Mississipi.

    5. Also, I don’t think Lousiana and Florida really are the same country in terms of how they are treated. For New Orleans, there is the strong undercurrent of “how stupid they are to build in such a location”. But the probability is 1 of being wiped out by a hurricane in the coastal areas of Florida and elsewhere; the probability of a San Andreas earthquake wiping out the San Jose area is close to 1 as well; but the people there are never condemned for being stupid.

    Then there is this complaint about perpetual government bailout. But where were people protesting at the Army Corps of Engineers’ beach replenishment program in New Jersey? The rule to being a good conservative seems to be never grudge the money spent by government to save the property of the well-off; always attribute disasters to the poor to be brought on by their own stupidity, and grumble about each meager dollar sent their way.

    It seems to me that science-wise, the American conservative is largely an IDist, but is otherwise a social Darwinist.

    6. This rich and powerful country is overwhelmed by the order of 100,000 refugees????? I now understand the roots of conflict in the third world. Both Pakistan and Iran accomodated of the order of 2 million refugees each from Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan-US jihad; these are infinitely poorer countries, and seeing what’s going on here, I can now appreciate what a strain it must have been on those societies. If roads to New Orleans have been reduced to goat trails, well, there were never any roads in the rugged mountains of the border areas of these countries where refugees spilled over in their thousands of thousands; and they had to be met at the border, and fed and sheltered.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    A comment from

    I wouldn’t rail against social welfare spending just yet. As much of your paycheck (likely more) goes to funding the $500 billion/yr US military machine and the additional $200-300 billion/yr in other defense related expendituresnation-buildingetc. The US military industrial complex has become the biggest welfare recipient of all.

    The US has dramatically cut social welfare spending, science funding, and other “non-essential” expenditures while doubling military spending in just 4 years, now accounting for more than half the entire world’s military spending combined.

    When you look at the state of health care, and things like disaster relief in the world’s most powerful industrialized nation, you have to wonder how different things might be if if some of that incredible, mind-boggling committment of money and resources to the pursuit of world domination were instead poured into silly left-wing causes like infrastructure, civil defense, healthcare, etc.

  • Samantha

    I do not know what is the most disturbing aspect of this tragedy, but I would like to second Clifford’s comment to Andrei. How dare anyone rush to judgement of those in such a horrific situation? I realise that it is easy for me to have high moral principles because I have never been tested. By the grace of god (sorry Sean, but I can’t think of a better phrase), I have never lived in poverty (as many of these people have all their lives), I have never been ill without access to medication, I have never had to look after a baby desperate to be fed and had nothing to give it. I cannot speak to what I would do under these circumstances. All I can do is give money to try to ease the situation and tell anyone who will listen that our government’s response has been completely unacceptable.

  • http://www.math.ucdavis.edu/~greg/ Greg Kuperberg

    I do not completely agree with Samantha and Clifford on this one. I think that it’s just fine to “rush to judgment”, provided that (a) judgment is sound, and (b) officials and leaders are not exempt from judgment.

    If people show up at a jewelry store in standing water with bolt cutters, the explanation is obvious. So it goes; every city has street thieves. They don’t hold public office (at least not since the Nixon administration).

    Now let’s turn to the people who do hold public office. Because of them, what should only have been a disaster is also a fiasco. If they were worried about looters and marauders, they should have sent troops to restore public order on Tuesday. Not one thing that has happened since Tuesday morning is a genuine surprise.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    All good. What exactly are you disagreeing with me about then? I don’t see it.


  • http://ko.offroadpakistan.com KO

    Both Pakistan and Iran accomodated of the order of 2 million refugees each from Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan-US jihad;

    The number had crossed 3 million Afghani refugees in Pakistan at one point. It then declined, but the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 brought a fresh influx into both countries.

    It has to be said, both Pakistan and Afgan govts. didn’t do a particualarly good job of dealing with the refugees, but unlike some other countries which come to mind, they didn’t turn them away either.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    The per-capita income in Pakistan is about 1/100th of that in the US.

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