Katrina hits hard

One day in New Orleans the sweet sound of Jazz must have been in the air the next day unfortunate devastation took a hold all around. It appears that the rich had evacuated earlier but double-digit groups of thousands were left stranded in areas such as airports, the superbowl/arena, the streets, and outside public institutions

It was also concerning to see the desperate depths that people went to in attempts survive through a routes of aggressive actions against each other! It is unfortunate that it took so long for any form of relief logistics with associated supplies to reach the thousands that needed it.

.As the relief effort continues it is worth considering both what lead to this disaster and the possible aftermath unless investment is channelled correctly and in parallel.

Officials have said that 20% of the 500,000 residents of New Orleans live on or below the poverty line, or are elderly and sick. They have been described as the low mobility population. These issues have been raised in the past but the result has been silence. In both 2000 and 2005, disaster plans had been prepared but apparently know one thought that the leeves (city protective areas) would be holed. These levees were supposed to protect New Orleans but when compromised they sent millions of litres of water cascading through the streets, putting some 80 percent of the city under water. Its important to note that although know one expected this compromise, budget cuts to the city’s defenses by successive administrations in Washington appeared to have compounded the problem. In 2004 Army engineers sought $105m for hurricane and flood programmes in New Orleans – The Whitehouse slashed the request to $42.5m. The funding dry-up resulted in no investment for shelters and halted maintenance work to the city’s east bank leeves for the first time in 37 years.

Now New Orleans is overrun with dirty water but it is important to note that it is also probably contaminated by waste and chemicals. Fires continue to rage. The environmental impact of Katrina is likely to be severe. Hurricanes usually leave some imprint on the environment long after they dissipate, such as eroded beaches and flattened trees.

It also appears that the water will need to be pumped out but where to? If it is pumped back into the Gulf of Mexico, it may take with it higher concentrations of toxins, as it may not be treated first. The impact on wildlife should be considered.

From an economic perspective, Hurricane Katrina may hit the US economy much harder than past experience predicts, because of the damage it appears to have inflicted on the US oil production and refining industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Uncertainty about just how severe this damage is makes any assessment of the economic consequences of Katrina difficult, but there are certainly some disturbing statistics. The Gulf of Mexico is crucial to US energy supplies and accounts for nearly 30 per cent of US offshore crude oil production and nearly half of its refinery capacity.

At this time we need to think and deliver solutions both for the people in immediate dire need and for the aftermath. A multi-faceted approach is needed where disease must not take hold, rash decisions on environmental issues must not be made and no thought on money saving should be made, instead we need to bring life back to New Orleans. Let us pray for those that are no longer with us and give hope to those that need it now – for their present and our mutual future.

Categories: 2005

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