Hurricane Katrina: Crisis in New Orleans

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The city of New Orleans, as well as many other communities along the Gulf Coast of the United States, was thrown into a state of Crisis when Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005.

"Some [New Orleans] residents might have been predicting a close call, along the lines of last year's Hurricane Ivan, which threatened the city but then spared it serious damage. Katrina, by contrast, stubbornly hewed to the track predicted by hurricane forecasters Friday, one that aimed it straight at the Crescent City," Gordon Russell wrote in the August 29, 2005, Times-Picayune.

"New Orleans was left with no power, no drinking water, dwindling food supplies, widespread looting, smoke rising on the horizon and the sounds of gunfire. At least one large building was ablaze Tuesday," August 30, 2005, CNN reported.

"Hospitals with deathly ill patients were left without power, with ventilators that didn't work, with floodwaters rising on the lower floors and with corpses rotting in the corridors and stairwells. People unable to breathe on their own, or with cancer or heart disease or kidney failure, slipped into comas and sank into their final sleep in front of helpless doctors and relatives," Bob Herbert wrote in the September 5, 2005, New York Times.

"Death and the stink of decay were all over the city. Corpses were propped up in wheelchairs and on lawn furniture, or left to decompose on sunbaked sidewalks. Some floated by in water fouled by human feces," Herbert said. "Degenerates roamed the city, shooting at rescue workers, beating and robbing distraught residents and tourists, raping women and girls. ... Viewers could watch diabetics go into insulin shock on national television, and you could see babies with the pale, vacant look of hunger that we're more used to seeing in dispatches from the third world. You could see their mothers, dirty and hungry themselves, weeping. ... Old, critically ill people were left to soil themselves and in some cases die like stray animals on the floor of an airport triage center."

"Most of the streets are filled with stagnant, fetid waters streaked with iridescent oil and smelling of garbage, human waste and death. ... Mortuary teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency moved out to locate the dead, but the police's main focus remained on rescue operations," CNN reported September 5, 2005.

And, Herbert added, "The president of the richest, most powerful country in the history of the world didn't seem to notice."

Mayhem & Sniper Reports

"The helicopter sniping reports have sounded weird to me from the beginning. Here is a reason for shots in the air that could easily have been misconstrued from inside the helicopter," Greg Mitchell wrote September 7, 2005, in Editor & Publisher:

"Some of her neighbors committed suicide, [Charmaine Neville] said: 'Because nobody was coming to help them, they were killing themselves. Some people that just went crazy.' Helicopters would pass over and 'we would do the SOS on our flashlights' but they never stopped. Thousands were still trapped in their homes -- old, young, pregnant, children. Some men fired guns as choppers approached, but they 'weren't trying to hit the helicopters. They figured maybe they weren't seeing us. Maybe if they heard this gunfire, they would stop, but that didn't help us.'"

Also note Christopher Shea's September 11, 2005, Boston Globe article casting doubt on the level of mayhem in New Orleans: "Up for grabs: Sociologists question how much looting and mayhem really took place in New Orleans."

Superdome & Convention Center

Michael D. Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, "told network television interviewers on Thursday night [September 1st] that "federal officials were not even aware there was a crowd at the convention center for three days into the crisis."

"'Don't you guys watch television?' Ted Koppel asked him on Nightline. 'Our reporters have been reporting about it for more than just today.'
"Mr. Brown, who indicated that officials had heard word of the problem earlier but were too busy dealing with refugees at the Superdome to confirm it , said, 'We learned about it factually today that that's what existed.'"

However, in an interview on PBS's Online NewsHour given the same day, Brown said "Well, let me answer the question two ways: First, with regard to the evacuation of the Superdome and the convention center, we have had an ongoing supply [of] food and water to there. They've had meals every day that they've been there."

The Boston Globe reported September 3, 2005: "But what the evacuees found here in recent days was worse at times than the ruined homes they had left behind. There were promises of food and water, but there was none to be had. There were buses coming to get them, they were told, again and again. But those buses never showed."

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