After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina and the aftermath: Where's the expertise?

I haven't been doing much posting this past week, first due to several days away from the net, and the last few days following the incredible disaster that is Katrina. However, I cannot continue to watch this horror and not make some comment. I did not want to immediately criticize the response efforts to this disaster, in part because I wanted to verify how much of this is due to honestly being overwhelmed by the magnitude of this disaster and how much of it was due to poor preparations and indeed reduction of resources and lack of proper funding for a very predictable (and predicted by many at that) major disaster. Unlike some, I have lived through hurricanes, including Juan in 2003, and I well remember the damage that storm did, and it was nowhere near the intensity of Katrina. I remember the eyewall coming through where I live. I remember the massive damage done to the forests and the amount of damage done to the infrastructure of my home city and surrounding area. However, I also remember the calm cool and collected response from emergency providers and the tremendous efforts made immediately after it passed to bring information and assistance to those that needed it. Now I am not trying to say that the same degree of response should have happened in New Orleans, if nothing else the difference in the power and devastation of the two hurricanes would make that an unfair comparison. I simply am trying to show that I have some idea of what dealing with the aftermath of a destructive huricane can be like, and that what I am seeing regarding Katrina doesn't feel like it is being well managed nor was well prepared for.

However, the responses I have seen regarding Katrina have horrified me in their lack of coordination, focus, and communication to those most affected by this devastation. This was a foreseeable event, and there should have been better prepositioning of resources initiated within the prior 36 hrs of Katrina making landfall. I find it incredible that I and many others could know from CNN and indeed the bloody Canadian weather channel that this was going to be a truly devastating storm wherever it hit, and that New Orleans was particularly vulnerable given its circumstances and probability of being directly hit by the center of the storm. Why not deploy ships from Atlantic bases starting Saturday night to Sunday morning so that if the worst occurred there would be a minimum lag time to their availability on site? At worst they would not be needed and the costs to deploy be absorbed and justified as proper preparation for the potentials of a major disaster which everyone was predicting during that previous 24-36 hrs to Katrina making landfall. I was wondering that on Sunday as I watched this storm head towards New Orleans. Then on Monday evening to Tuesday when the storm itself had passed over it was clear that the storm surge was starting to overwhelm the levees there was a plan to try and reinforce them with helicopter lifted 3000lbs sandbags and concrete dividers. Seems like the smart thing to do, and could have if successful made a major difference in the scale of the disaster in New Orleans where the flooding was concerned. Yet what happens? These helicopters are diverted to rescue operations instead. I have to wonder though how many more people were placed in harms way by this diversion, though I doubt we will ever know now. Oh yes, I do realize that we cannot know if the sandbags and such would have made a difference, but it *was* a sensible response and about the only option other than simply letting the levees breaches grow worse and worse increasing the severity and reach of the flooding in New Orleans.

What really troubles me though is the apparent lack of expertise within the organizations like FEMA for knowing what to do in the wake of such a disaster. From what I have read both in the past several days as well as watching the Bush Administration since it came to power was that there was replacement of experts in disaster management with political hacks as a reward for political support of the current Administration. That there had been major cuts in the financing for the levees and other preparations for the event of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans. Indeed, in 2001 there was a report that said the three most dangerous scenarios facing America was a terrorist attack on NYC, a major hurricane hitting New Orleans, and an earthquake hitting California. Well, in 56 months America under GWB has now had two of three.

I am also seeing a great deal of anger not just from the affected region but from throughout America, including from some normally hard core supporters of Bush. The initial reaction at National Review Online this week has been quite sharply critical as noted here by Tbogg of the initial Bush speech, and the editorials from the papers in America has been harshly critical, even conservative papers like this one. This anger is not just being felt by the left in America but many on the right as well, and I suspect there is going to be some very long term political repercussions to how poorly this situation has been handled from the outset. As for the anger of those trapped within the disaster zone, I suspect that also is going to be something with major long term negative repercussions. It is amazing though to see the near unanimity regarding the poor performance of President Bush and the GOP run federal government to this disaster, and I find it difficult to believe it is going to dissipate anytime soon. Indeed, my expectation is that it will increase not decrease.

I don't think I want to write too much more at this time on this, it is simply too upsetting. Though I will add one last depressing thought. That being the potential for major disease and plague from the waste contaminated water and the decomposition of the dead. If things are left as they are for too much longer I will not be surprised to see people becoming sick and dying from age old diseases like dysentery created whenever there is massive death/devastation causing major biohazards. This has been a very depressing situation, and I doubt it will not be getting much better anytime soon given the chaotic response to date on rescue and relief operations. This has *NOT* had the appearance of being handled by competent government officials and organizations, and in the days and weeks ahead I suspect there is going to be much critical examination of how the various governments have responded to this, particularly the federal government given it has the most resources for these kinds of operations. Not to mention that the levees were built and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I do ask that those able to contribute aid and help do so in whatever manner they can. I also ask those that are inclined towards such to pray for those caught in this horrific disaster, I know I have.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thu Sep 01, 07:20:00 PM 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thu Sep 01, 07:26:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Noel M said...

I'll bet New Orleans would have got a faster response if someone had called the FBI and reported that they were Al Qaida operatives who had blown up the levees.

Wed Sep 07, 01:43:00 AM 2005  

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