Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes or tsunamis make often a disaster. However, hurricane Katrina was very special. Everything happened as if USA was an underdeveloped country. Flash-back on this catastrophe.
According to the Louisiana evacuation plan, evacuation was mainly left up to individual citizens to find their own way out of the city, even if it was known that many residents of New Orleans lacked cars. It is also believed that many citizens, having survived previous hurricanes, did not anticipate the impending catastrophe and chose to ride out the storm. Even so, a 2000 census revealed that 27% of New Orleans households, amounting to approximately 120,000 people, were without privately-owned transportation. Additionally, at 38%, New Orleans has one of the highest poverty rates in the United States. These factors may have prevented many people from being able to evacuate on their own. Consequentially most of those stranded in the city are the poor, the elderly, and the sick. It’s a shame that US government hasn’t organized an evacuation, with military or firefighting forces! Evacuation was left up to citizens, like in ‘Survivor’ reality show. If you are rich and with a good health, you will be safe; else, America doesn’t really matter of you, you have to die!
On August 28, as Hurricane Katrina grew into a category 5 storm that had yet to make landfall, some « refuges of last resort » were established for citizens who could not leave the city, including the massive and now-famous Louisiana Superdome. On September 1, it was counted that as many as 60,000 people had gathered at the Superdome for evacuation, having remained there in increasingly difficult circumstances. Air conditioning, electricity, and running water all failed, making for very unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions. In the Superdome have been widespread reports of murders, beatings, robberies etc. The Superdome was only completely evacuated by September 6.
But, the complete anarchy wasn’t in the Superdome, it was worse outside! Shortly after the hurricane ended on August 30, some residents of New Orleans who remained in the city, including police officers, began looting stores : drug, food, convenience, clothing, jewelry stores etc. Several shootings occured between police and New Orleans residents. Thousands of national guard and federal troops were mobilized and sent to Louisiana. When I saw this on the news, national guards, refugees, gunmen, misery, looters, I found that is was looking like Iraq. In fact, when the hurricane was on Louisiana and Mississipi, most of national guards of those states were precisely in Iraq. Louisiana was looking both like Western America in cowboys times and a third world country, but… it was in USA, a modern country in the 21st century.
All over the USA, people were surprised by the power of Katrina. In the same time, the USA were drowning worldwide criticism for failing to adopt the greatest international agreement for the reduction of some greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol, which has been accepted by nearly every other country. Why forget that a connection could exist between pollution and a category 5 storm? The US alone accounted for 36.1% of worldwide greenhouse emissions in 1990, so that the USA is the world’s biggest polluter. Emissions in America have continued to rise and are now 11% higher than in 1990. All searchers on environmental issues tell that global warming is the result of a strengthening greenhouse effect caused primarily by man-made increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And this global warming provokes a change of the climate models, for example, it increases the power of storms. US people should think about it.
All those events seemed to happen without any control of US government and administration. But all that Bush administration did, was all nonsense. Bush said that we must pray God to help the victims. The United States had been reluctant during several days to accept donations and aid from foreign countries other than Canada and the United Kingdom, even if France and Russia were one of the first nations to offer aid. However, this policy was reversed, and as the reports of damage grew more grim, the United States has slowly started to accept the foreign aid… a week after the disaster. As the military and rescue services regained control over New Orleans, Bush made restrictions on the activity of the media to hide to citizens his failure in the disaster management.
So, with Katrina we saw a very big disaster but also a side of the American society and the way in which Bush administration govern its country. I can’t end this article without telling that I want to express my sincere condolences to the 1080 victims and their family. I hope that the early French city of New Orleans will be rebuilt quickly and that we will have soon an happy Mardi Gras like in the past !