New Orleans and U.S. Gulf Coast Area 
Hurricane Katrina Disaster - 2005

Pray for New Orleans, the New Orleaneans
and the Rest of Those Hurt by 
Hurricane Katrina

   
   
   
  September 5, 2005
  My friend in northern Virginia, Gene Gaines, who is a fellow ISOC member wrote the following response to another ISOC colleague, Iwan Effendi in Indonesia, when discussing Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing destruction of New Orleans.  Note that this became a conversation about how this is perceived by Americans and the rest of the world.

On Sunday, September 4, 2005, 9:49:03 AM, Irwan wrote:

> To the people of the United States

> We share your loss and grieve over the disaster in New Orleans.
> As it is still fresh in our memory what happened earlier in Aceh, we
> understand what kind of sadness and sorrow you are going through, therefore
> if there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to let us
> know.
> We suggest that all of us must work to find preventive solutions so that in
> the future, tragedies such as these can be avoided.

> On behalf of Indonesian members

> Irwan Effendi - secretary
 

--Response from Gene Gaines

Irwan,

Thank you so much for your thoughts.

Much appreciated.

I have thought long and hard about my statement below, but these things need to be said. Just as many people in the U.S. were interested in what really happened in Aceh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, etc. with the tsunami, I believe many people in other countries are interested in what is happening with our disaster along the
U.S. Gulf Coast. What is happening in New Orleans screams out to exposed for all to see.

A personal note. I am now living near Washington DC, but was born and spent much of my early life in New Orleans. My father is buried in New Orleans. So many of my boyhood friends have old family homes along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama coast lines. All gone now.

Many people here will be working to assist the disaster victims.

But it must be stated that this hurricane caused two disasters. Two disasters, very different, and must be dealt with in very different ways. This is painful and embarrassing, but some facts about the two disasters need to be said.

 1) The hurricane missed New Orleans, passing just to the east, with strength to inflict significant but not catastrophic damage in the city. It was the breaks in the levees around New Orleans that caused the great tragedy there. Could the levee breaks and subsequent flooding have been prevented?  Yes. But soon after the present Bush administration took power, ongoing work on the levees, already in progress, was stopped by cutting the funding. Several new projects, critical to maintaining the integrity of the levees, were halted. Local officials, Louisiana elected officials to our national Congress, all raised their voices in protest of these cuts. In speech after speech and newspaper article after article, strong voices were raised, warning that the levee maintenance work was critical, and would open the city to flooding by a hurricane if not done. The levee work was not restarted. Why? Statements were made as to why the funds were needed elsewhere: (a) the coming war in Iraq (big U.S. firms can collect US$30,000 per month per employee, charge US$1,000 a day to feed soldiers) and (b) tax cuts for the most wealthy Americans.

I was born in Charity Hospital in New Orleans, an excellent  hospital staffed by two universities.  My family has been treated there for many generations.  As the business of health care in the United States has been privatized and hospitals turned into profit-making large corporations, Charity Hospital has become essentially a hospital for the poor, for those who do not have medical insurance.  (If I ecall correctly) it is the oldest hospital in the U.S., a huge skyscraper building on one of the major streets.  At any time after the hurricane, large Army trucks could drive to the hospital.  But none were sent.  For five days after the hurricane, the hospital and many hundreds of medical staff and critically-ill patients were abandoned, forgotten. Generators failed, out of gas or flooded.  Of course, hospital emergency generators are expected to last only for a limited time, until help arrives.  But no help was sent to the hospital.  No power, no lights, no ventilation, no air conditioning, no water, no toilet or ways of disposing of waste.  No tests could be run on dying patients, electric breathing and pumping machines had to be operated by hand, day-after-day.  Food, water, medicines ran out and had to be apportioned among the most ill patients.  Nurses and doctors went without food or water for days, working through the nights, saving water for patients, giving themselves saline intravenous injections in place of food and water.

There are thousands of suitable military trucks are within several hours drive of New Orleans.  Many were loaded with water, food, emergency supplies, but were withheld and not sent to the city.  I have been told by one emergency worker that there was some concern that Federal managers might be criticized if their trucks were damaged by water or lost, after one convoy of trucks were sent to a flooded parking areas and reportedly were flooded.

Doctors in Charity Hospital, using cell phones as long as they lasted, made hundreds of phones calls for help -- to Federal officials, to other hospitals, to news sources -- describing the horrific conditions and begging for help. It is my understanding that no serious effort was made to reach the hospital, or to at least air-drop water, food, medical supplies. No help went to Charity Hospital for FIVE DAYS after the hurricane. FIVE DAYS.

News people have driven into the city with satellite TV transmission equipment, looked around, sent out live     reports, and driven out again. But no help went to Charity Hospital. This failure to provide help was repeated over and over again in the city. Today, more than seven days after the hurricane winds were over, significant numbers of people are still trapped in their apartments, or the roofs or attics of their small houses, without any food or water other then what was at hand. Still trapped.
 

Literally many hundreds of people skilled in disaster and flood rescue, offering boats, busses, planes, even trains, have been turned away from the New Orleans area because of red tape. Just one example, my local Loudoun County police department received a frantic call for help from the head of  police in an area near New Orleans -- an area where people were dying in demolished buildings, corpses were laying unattended, thousands of people were without water or food.  Power was out and phones were down, but the official calling for help was able to get through on a cell phone, his call   "Please, please, we are desperate for help, can you send     your people." My local police head (1,500 miles from New Orleans) went into emergency mode, assembled a large team of his officers, vehicles, food and water, tents and supplies so his people could be self-sustaining, and promised the people calling for help that his men were on the way. After driving hundreds of miles, they were stopped and told to go back home -- because the local police head asking for help, in the midst of death and devastation, had not gone through the proper channels.  It is now 7 days after the hurricane, and my local officials still have not received permission for their police officers to begin travel to Louisiana.

 To summarize, the flood in New Orleans is the result of man -- four years ago stopping maintenance work on protective levees (similar to the Dutch dike system) needed to protect the city, then the U.S. Federal government failing to plan for such a disaster (For example, providing at least some emergency disaster communications. There are none.) then the Federal officials stepping in to "take control" and actually    preventing local officials, who know well what to do, from taking needed action.

Are my statements accurate?  While people are dying, having waited more than a week for rescue, and while there are corpses all over this American city rotting in the hot sun, equipment is being diverted from rescue work to create "photo opportunity" scenes for the touring President of the United States.

I can take you to a small town where a school building was used to house people rescued from New Orleans, crowded together with no electricity, no water, no toilet facilities, no food, no ventilation, no communication to their loved ones, desperate and with some seriously ill.  This school building is across the street from an Air Force base where troops were stationed, playing basketball and lounging in the sun -- with food, water, medical facilities. But the troops were not permitted to leave their base to help the people in desperate need, and the victims were not permitted to enter the Air Force Base.

As upsetting as the above statements are, they are true, and  need to be said. For shame. For shame.
 

Remember, it was NOT wind damage that took New Orleans, that destroyed the city. Yes, there was a hurricane. The city has survived such hurricanes many times before -- it was the collapse of two levees that happened a day after the winds subsided. Is this high water that collapsed the levees an unusual event for New Orleans? Think about it. The Mississippi River rises and floods in the Spring of almost every year. Floods and threats to the levee system are not new, and not unusual. New Orleans knows how to deal with high water threats. But not if the Federal government both (a) stops work on maintaining the levees, and (b) ties the     hands of local officials for rescue efforts.

 2) The hurricane disaster along the Gulf coastline to the east of New Orleans is a different situation.  This was truly an event of nature, the damage done by the hurricane and mostly by the wall of water pushed on shore by the winds, what is called a storm surge.  I have lived through hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, there can be devastating damage from winds, but the huge wall of water that swept through is unique.  The devastation is terrible, many lives were lost, but I see this as an act of nature, not an act of inhuman greed on the part of man.

My apologies for the above, but it needs to be said.

It also must be said that many, many good people are working night and day on rescue efforts in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. They need to be applauded.

I also must say that the several hundred thousand black and poor people in New Orleans are among the kindest, most moral people in the world. They will stop their activities to help others, they willingly share their food and money with others in need. They are not disposable, and they are not garbage. To see them treated in this fashion offends me deeply.

I expect that some good Americans will wish to protest that I should not embarrass my county in such fashion, that the ISOC list is not the place for this, or perhaps wish to say that this did not happen. If you feel I am wrong, I would like to hear from you.


Gene Gaines
Sterling, Virginia

   
  September 4, 2005
  The media has given a great deal of coverage, although much of this coverage has led to false assumptions.

A friend, Ken North, who is a native New Orleanean living in California sent me this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers link containing this report dated March 2005, showing their assessment of the water / flood protection systems in the New Orleans area.  What is notable is the money that was requested and the money that was actually spent.   See below:

In February 2005, the US Army Corps of Engineers published a fact sheet about
the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project.

The first page is a map and the second contains details of the SELA project. The government created the SELA project in 1995 and you can see these notes on page 2 of the document:

"In authorizing the project, Congress expressed intent to have the critical flood control work accomplished as quickly as possible."

More than $400 million had been spent on SELA since FY1996 but the project was incomplete. The SELA funding was cut in 2003 and again last year.

The budget request for SELA last year was more than $60 million. The administration cut that to $10.4 million.

US Army Corp of Engineers SELA Project Fact Sheet
http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/pd/Funding_Programs/Current/CGSELAFY06.pdf

 

This is certainly damning,  because Mary L. Landrieu, U.S. Senator, had introduced a bill to request funding for this project.  President Bush had vetoed that bill.  She discusses this at her website.

By the way, it was gut-wrenching to see and hear the responses about the damage and suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath from Senator Landrieu and the Jefferson Parrish President on Meet the Press on Sunday, September 4, 2005.

My own assessment: Al-Qaeda itself couldn't have done a better job of decimating a major U.S. city.  What has happened in New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast path of Hurricane Katrina, is a nightmare that will haunt the conscience of this country for the rest of our history.

   
  September 3, 2005
  The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina victims in the New Orleans area is now better coordinated after musch protests to the media from high-ranking officials including the Mayor of New Orleans, the Governor of Louisiana, and a Louisiana Senator.

My sister, Sheryl, who lives in Baton Rouge, has taken in several members of her extended family, as their living spaces were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.  God bless them all.

   
  September 2, 2005
On August 28 and August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a monster Category 5 hurricane, slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, caused widespread damage and death from southeast Louisiana on the west side of the storm, all the way to Mobile, Alabama and points east of there.  In the ensuing aftermath, the City New Orleans suffered a crippling blow when its levy failed in two places.  The unexpected and often deeply feared result was that Lake Ponchatrain, which forms the northern border of New Orleans, has rapidly flooded into the geographic area that defines the city, like water into a low-lying bowl.  The result of this flood has created circumstances that are being termed by many as "Biblical" (an allusion to cataclysmic events described in the Judaic-Christian Bible like the Great Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah), and catastrophic.  Indeed, no single event in the 229-year history of the U.S., has ever seen a U.S. city suffer such mass devastation.  Not even the Great Chicago Fire or the San Francisco Earthquake can compare in overall damage and loss of life.
We, as Americans, are used to helping others in such disasters, but solving the myriad of problems associated with this horrible natural disaster and its aftereffects, will certainly test our character and our ability to respond to such catastrophic events.  New Orleans, a city heretofore known for its charm, culture, night life, and food, has now become a cesspool, where thousands of people are living under the law of the jungle.  We are seeing the effects of what happens when a city the size of New Orleans completely loses its infrastructure and supporting services. Looters, carjackers, and thugs are running amok, and many are dying, being murdered, raped, and most are in great suffering, because they cannot respond adequately to the mayor's orders to evacuate the city, and living circumstances worsen by the hour.  I am sure most feel that this area has become a Hell on Earth.
As this horrible, yet historic, drama unfolds over the coming days and weeks, and even months, we need to pray for New Orleans, the New Orleaneans, and the others affected by Hurricane Katrina.  As a Christian, I believe that God answers prayers, and that this is a time when His Grace, His Mercy, and His Love are sorely needed.
So help us God, we need some miracles, truckloads and truckloads of miracles.
Foretelling of this Hurricane-related Disaster
Visit this link and see what you think (read completely): Gone with the Water
   

  Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund and Family Locator
The disaster area affected by Hurricane Katrina is approximately the size of Britain. A million people were evacuated and many lost their homes, jobs and businesses. The Red Cross is accepting donations and providing a family locator service.

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