Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans: A Disaster of Human Response

This s***'s all got a bit out of hand
There's no options I'm all down on plans
I'm jus' gonna have to split it now, man
--Wayney G/The Streets
NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Frightened Japanese, European and American tourists told how police fired over their heads to end their attempt to leave New Orleans.

Stranded since Hurricane Katrina hit the city on Monday, the 200 tourists were thrown out of their hotel on Thursday morning and said they were confronted by police as they attempted to get to buses to take them to safety.

Turned back to the centre of New Orleans, where looters were still roaming the lawless streets, the tourists huddled together on their suitcases under a pavilion next to the Mississippi River.
Such a brilliant plan: We'll keep the desperate and hungry in one spot but we won't supply them with necessities. Caged animals with guns and no food. Recipe for a good time, I think. Why don't we threaten ambassadors of other countries with lethal force for good measure? Oh the stories they will tell back home....

You know, at one point I thought going to New Orleans was a priority on life's "To do" list, but this started to unravel after traveling to the south and having some encounters with people who have ventured into N.O. Louisiana cops have an unfortunate tendency to "confiscate" vehicles with out-of-state plates... not that the cops there are worth the metal their cheap badges are made of:
Over 30 (New Orleans) officers have quit over the last three days. Out of 160 officers in his district maybe 55 or 60 are working. He hasn't seen several since Sunday. HQ is closed, evacuated. No phones to contact them.
What jackasses. Apparently, the latest figures say up to 60% of the force has quit. So....The 40% who showed up for work are now doing their best to keep the mayhem alive. Who's running the force down there? Police Chief Wiggum?
Not that the people of New Orleans are acting any better than their authorities:
"A man has been arrested for raping a seven-year-old in the toilet, this place is hell, I feel sick. The smell is horrendous, there are toilets overflowing and people everywhere."

As the evacuation of the 70,000- capacity arena continued yesterday, the swamped city of New Orleans descended into near barbarism.

The looting and carjacking of recent days showed no sign of slowing. Gunfire was aimed at police and helicopters attempting to ferry the sick from hospitals, accompanied by shouts of: "You better come get my family."

I have never heard of such acts of violent and depraved stupidity in this type of situation. Shooting at rescuers? Are you f***ing retarded?

In Thailand and Sri Lanka where thousands upon thousands of extremely poor people were killed and millions more left homeless by the tsunami, there were never reports of such crazed barbarism.

What a disgrace.

And don't bother with the tired cliche that anybody would respond to a disaster by being irrational. Here's Kobe's response to an the January 17, 1995 earthquake that levelled the great city and killed over 10,000 people:

Human Behavioral Responses

In general, citizens were pro-social in their behavior following the earthquake. They were observed engaging in a variety of voluntary helping actions in the hours after the earthquake, including participating in search and rescue activities, fire fighting, and establishing neighborhood shelters. Courtesy and politeness were observed in terms of queuing for water, phone service, and other necessities, and in retrieving goods from partially or totally collapsed structures.

Post Script: On any given day in Japan, you can find people on the streets of Kansai still volunteering to raise money for rebuilding Kobe. Still. 10 years later.

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