National disgrace

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

The images of destruction and desperation from Louisiana and Mississippi continue to shock.

No one anticipated Hurricane Katrina destroying so much and the following floods to devastate so many. While I watch the images on TV and read about the suffering with the rest of the country, the hurricane’s victims’ cries for help grow louder.

Unfortunately, poor planning and slow responses from emergency agencies and government officials become more obvious.

I know blaming government agencies for their slow and unorganized response will not help anyone at this point. However, like most previous disasters, FEMA and other emergency response agencies were unprepared and overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina and the most vulnerable continue to suffer.

Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans’s emergency operations, said the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was inadequate and Louisiana officials have been overwhelmed.

&uot;This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control,&uot; Ebbert told the Associated Press as he watched refugees evacuate the Superdome. &uot;We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can’t bail out the city of New Orleans.&uot;

Experts have been predicting the city of New Orleans, which sits mostly below sea level and is surrounded by water, might face this type of devastation following a powerful hurricane.

Although the potential for this type of disaster had been predicted, local officials in Louisiana said the Category 4 hurricane combined with the breach of a levee overwhelmed them.

According to several experts, the major problems with the response effort were an ineffective and late evacuation order and insufficient emergency shelter.

&uot;There is never a contingency plan for something like this,&uot; said Johnny B. Bradberry, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

My question for these people is why not?

If experts had predicted this type of disaster then why was the response so poor?

Martha A. Madden, former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said she believes a critical systemic breakdown occurred the moment the levee broke. She said contingency plans have been in place for decades but were either ignored or improperly executed.

The bitterness and frustration felt by the people stranded in New Orleans continues to grow and many feel abandoned by their leaders.

Maybe it is unrealistic and unfair to expect our government to respond quickly in the wake of such disasters, but their response always seems late and inadequate.

Personally I feel helpless as I watch and read about the suffering of Katrina’s victims.

Fortunately, generous Americans have already responded and the Red Cross has received over $21 million so far.

I hope the rest of the world responds to help Katrina’s victims the way Americans did following the tsunami in Asia.

The people of this country responded with amazing generosity following the horrible disaster in Southeast Asia and contributed over $1.55 billion to tsunami victims.

Disasters like Katrina always hit the poor the hardest and statistics show that around 20% of the population in New Orleans and Mississippi live below the poverty line.

I hope the people of the world realize there is poverty in this country and this realization will provide added sympathy and assistance for Katrina’s victims.