What is the government for? Should one not expect that the most important job of the government would be the protection of all its citizens, particularly those who can not protect themselves, the weakest sections of the society? If so, our government failed miserably, in spite of all the bluster emanating from the White House.
It is too early to get the figures on those who lost their lives in the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The indications are that it will be enormous.
Hurricanes are regular visitors to the Caribbean Island countries, Florida and the Gulf coast of the United States. Protection, evacuation and relief work has become a cyclical summer exercise. But Hurricane Katrina was different. It was a rare but deadly category 5 Hurricane and it was barreling to wards the vulnerable city of New Orleans.
The oft-maligned little Cuba, a country blockaded and isolated by the US for 45 years has been able to evacuate millions of people in an orderly fashion often without loss of life as in cases of category 4 hurricanes, Michelle in 2001 and Ivan in 2004.
Tremendous loss on the Mississippi coast could have been minimized had the Governor of Mississippi, taken the threat from being on the advancing side of a category 5 hurricane with the seriousness it deserved. The saddest part is, the tragedy of New Orleans could have been avoided.
The devastation visited on New Orleans is only partly the result of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone, who follows the news, knows that a major part of New Orleans is built of the sinking reclaimed marshland that is up to 20 feet below the sea level. The system of raised levees surrounding the city, keep the city from drowning in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.
Times-Picayune has been reporting about the impending disaster waiting for New Orleans for years. The 1995 floods in New Orleans took six lives. Responding to the impending danger from the future hurricanes, the Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), to be completed in 10 years by the Army Corps of Engineers. In 2003 the Bush administration cut the SELA budget drastically, according to the Times-Picayune, directly related to the war in Iraq.
It has been widely known for a long time that a Hurricane hitting New Orleans directly would be one of the worst disasters ever, in the history of the United States.
Well it did. The hurricane hit on Monday morning, but by the afternoon the sigh of relief was palpable that New Orleans had dodge the bullet. Then the day of the deluge, Tuesday dawned, the levees were breached, with the horrible sights of a city being swallowed by the dreaded floods predicted for a long time.
The question is why were the Corps of Engineers not ordered to at least try to shore up the Levees designed for category 3 Hurricane, when it was known for at least three days that a category 5 hurricane is barreling towards New Orleans. Only the president could have ordered such an effort.
In any disaster the first few hours are critical for saving lives. Most of the medical National Guard units are in Iraq tying the hands of the Governors. Why were the military amphibious vessels from the many naval bases scattered around the Gulf-coast not mobilized to help the trapped people immediately after the disaster unfolded? Again only the President could have ordered the Military to action.
Incompetence of the Bush administration is on display again. As New Orleans drowned Bush was vacationing, till some one jarred him a day, a whole 24 hours, later about the political consequences.