Saturday, September 03, 2005

How the rest of the world sees it

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | New Orleans crisis shames Americans:
The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, [one broadcaster] said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better.

The country has to choose whether it wants to rebuild the levees and destroyed communities, with no expense spared for the future - or once again brush off that responsibility, and blame the other guy.
It's not just the Brits, of course.

Frustration about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina has reached Chicago City Hall, as Mayor Richard Daley today noted a tepid response by federal officials to the city's offers of disaster aid. The city is willing to send hundreds of personnel, including firefighters and police, and dozens of vehicles to assist on the storm-battered Gulf Coast, but so far the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested only a single tank truck, Daley said.

"I was shocked," he said.
I think New Mexico was probably shocked at this delay as well:

Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck — a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.
Bureaucratic ineptitude has to play a role. How much of this can be attributed to "supervision failures"?

As reports continued of famished and dehydrated people isolated across the Gulf Coast, angry questions were pressed about why the military has not been dropping food packets for them -- as was done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.

Bill Wattenburg, a consultant for the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the designers of the earlier food drop programs, said that he has lobbied the administration and the military to immediately begin something similar. He said he was told that the military was prepared to begin, but that it was awaiting a request from FEMA.
The first disaster declarations (covering Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi) were issued on the 29th, before things got really bad. Those declarations allowed FEMA to step in and start responding to requests for assistance from local officials. Clearly, those requests were made, but poor communications and ineffective planning meant that resources weren't staged and personnel weren't ready. We deserve better.