Katrina Aftermath: Woeful Incompetence (rant).

This is a discussion on Katrina Aftermath: Woeful Incompetence (rant). within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; Has anyone else been shocked by the utter incompetence demonstrated by authorities in the aftermath of Katrina? The Interdictor Blog ...

  1. #1
    Yes, my avatar is stolen anonytmouse's Avatar
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    Katrina Aftermath: Woeful Incompetence (rant).

    Has anyone else been shocked by the utter incompetence demonstrated by authorities in the aftermath of Katrina?
    The Interdictor Blog

    Three days ago, police and national guard troops told citizens to head toward the Crescent City Connection Bridge to await transportation out of the area. The citizens trekked over to the Convention Center and waited for the buses which they were told would take them to Houston or Alabama or somewhere else, out of this area.

    It's been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.

    Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.

    There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like -- all of them in dire straights.

    Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.

    The people are so desperate that they're doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.

    The buses never stop.

    Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

    He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific."

    He says it's the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.
    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/ea..._id=1001053068

    "About 100 people have died at the Chalmette Slip after being pulled off their rooftops, waiting to be ferried up the river to the West Bank and bused out of the flood ravaged area, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, D-Napoleonville, said Thursday.

    "About 1,500 people were at the slip on Thursday afternoon, where critical supplies like food and water are scarce, he said. Melancon expressed serious frustration with the slow pace of getting these items to the people waiting to finish their journey to safety.
    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/ea..._id=1001054091

    Doctors, patients and staff are stranded at Baptist Hospital (extended campus of Memorial Hospital). My brother, Dr. Bryant King, is stranded there and has been sending occassional text messages to let us know the situation.

    Yesterday, he explained that management at the hospital decided to selectively withhold food and water from patients. Doctors are being forced to decide who gets to live and who will starve to death. The hospital is surrounded by 8 ft of flood water; there is no more electricity, food or water. Windows are broken out and people are starving.

    There has been very little press about this hosptial, but conditions are deplorable and they need to be evacuated. My brother asked that we please get them out of there. Please let the press know that Baptist Hospital (2700 Napolean Blv) is BEGGING FOR HELP!!!
    ...
    I just received a phone call from my sister about Methodist Hospital, she has just informed me that FEMA is not helping them at all. They are out of water, food, and diesel fuel for the generator. If we don't get media attention I am afraid that something horrible will happen to my parents and everyone at the hospital.

    There are 700 people in the 3rd floor lobby, about 50 or staff, and around 50-60 patients (a few have been evacuated but the rest died). They did have helicopters evacuating patients, but now they are refusing (by the way the helicopters were being paid for by the hospital parent company UHC).
    http://editorandpublisher.com/eandp/..._id=1001053452

    1300 Still Trapped at University Hospital

    Latest text message from inside the hospital: ''Water dropping. Gunshots. Not safe.''

    Through text messages and intermittent cell phone calls I have learned that 1300 patients and staff remain trapped mere blocks from the SuperDome at the University Hospital on Gravier Street. My girlfriend of 15 years is a 3rd OB/GYN resident there.

    No power, food or water for 48+ hours.
    Many dead are reported in the hospital.
    No helipad exists.
    No word from the outside world on a rescue or a plan.
    The stench is said to be unbearable.
    The fact that people are dying en-mass of thirst, diabetic shock(due to lack of food and/or insulin) and lack of medicines in 21st century America is extraordinary. Heads should roll and governments fall with incompetence of this magnitude.

    Some authorities have tried to blame their pathetic response on violence. Maybe they should call in the MSF, UN or ICRC, all of which run hospitals, refugee camps and disaster relief in far more dangerous locations around the world. Of course, if they had done their job effectively, the level of violence would be much reduced.

    They just announced, on the scanner, that University Hospital has been evacuated. Better late than never.
    Last edited by anonytmouse; 09-02-2005 at 02:39 PM.

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    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    You're out of your mind. Do you understand that this isn't a normal situation? They can't navigate the streets because they are flooded. The work is slow and tedious because most of the rescues are done by helicopter, and that takes time. It's only been about 3 and a half days since they could even start to head that direction. And how would you feel if you are trying to save someone, but some .............. is shooting at you? You'd start to give up too.

    You act like the government isn't doing everything they can. STFU.
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    Even death may die... Dante Shamest's Avatar
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    The work is slow and tedious because most of the rescues are done by helicopter, and that takes time.
    Actually, most of the rescues are done by boats. Helicopters don't land in water that well.

    You act like the government isn't doing everything they can. STFU.
    It would appear that certain members of the government think that way.

  4. #4
    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dante Shamest
    Actually, most of the rescues are done by boats. Helicopters don't land in water that well.
    Have you seen the news???? They're not landing. They're hovering and plucking people off of their rooftops, smashing holes through the roof to get to some of them.
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    I don't think that's fair Ober. Some people are doing everything they can--but I do think it's reasonable to question whether the decisions made immediately before the disaster were correct. Maybe it's not possible to have predicted the looting that would take place, but I wonder whether, if security had been a focus earlier in the process, it may have been possible to nip the unrest in the bud. Obviously rescues must take priority over everything else, but it's arguably short-sighted not to establish a modicum of security prior to ramping up the rescue operations. For instance, independent rescuers are being discouraged becaues of the danger. It's not clear to me that these dangers are due to the maurading bands who have looted guns, but if so, then the lack of security has led to potentially a severe loss of manpower. (Interestingly, a disaster expert from LSU just mentioned that he expected to see control established much earlier using fleets of helicopters "from day 1".)


    I think it's also fair to question whether the federal government is following the script that was set out after the "Hurricane Pam" training exercises. The local authorities, such as Walter Maestri, have pointed out that the federal government is simply not meeting its promises about what would happen. Granted, this is an exceptionally difficult situation, but it wasn't unexpected for a great deal of the city to be underwater. And people like Maestri are no strangers to dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes, so I'm inclined to trust that he has some sense of what should have been happening.

    Also, I don't think that the streets in downtown New Orleans are all flooded. I know the French Quarter is the high ground, we definitely see people sitting on the ground near the convention center. I know for a fact--because I've been on it--that there is an offramp from the bridge directly to the convention center. If they're able to get trucks onto the bridge (and I just saw a news story discussing their dumping rations to people at the CC via the bridge), then I don't see why water flooding is truly an issue there. (And the news scenes I'm seeing don't show much water in that area at all.)

    Finally, isn't it reasonable to question why supplies couldn't be airlifted to some of the survivors who were rescued only to be left to die? I realize that airlifting food carries risks, but if you're dealing with a small number of people--rather than a convention center sized crowd--it seems at least potentially feasible. Now, it's not clear how the authorities would know to feed these people, but they were rescued from rooftops, so it was clear that they existed.

    Also, I don't really understand how the phone networks work, but if anyone knows the answer, I'm quite curious what would need to change to ramp up cell phone capacity to allow them to be more useful during an emergency. I know that my 504 area code cell phone works sporadically, so it can't all be a result of things being destroyed in the city. (Also, SMS works just fine according to the streaming broadcast of the local news.)

    That said, I think it's pretty clear that this situation isn't going to get better just because the US government does absolutely everything it can. Even in the best case, it's going to take about a month, minimum, to get the water out of the city. You can't just magically get rid of the suffering. Moreover, it should be noted that people preparing to sit out a hurricane are told to keep five days of food and water and a battery-powered radio (among other things). I realize that not everyone has the resources to do this kind of thing, but the reason it's suggested is that disaster relief is difficult, and you need supplies to sustain you for several days. I do know, however, that both Mayor Nagin and Maestri said that they had expected supplies within 48 hours from the federal government (presumably as a result of the hurricane Pam exercise).

    I've heard a lot of comparisons between international relief and the response to Katrina. I don't really think that this is a fair comparison because the frame of reference is so different, and the expectations aren't really comparable. With the tsunami, for instance, I don't remember seeing 24-7 coverage, especially with people saying that they feel like they're living like animals and people complaining about the slow response. I feel like there's also a great deal more urgency to respond to a domestic disaster, and that makes every instant where supplies are not in place feel that much slower. We also tend to see a lot of recycled images of disaster, which makes it feel like very little is happening, even when those images are at times days old (for instance, the shots of looting at Winn-Dixie when the hurricane was practically still in New Orleans). Perhaps some of this is a result of the fear that if there were an even larger disaster we don't want to think that the federal government cannot restore order quickly enough to avoid upsetting our lives.

    One thing I hope is that this disaster does lead to a re-evaluation of how America anticipates and handles long-term, low-immediate-likelihood threats. Maybe there aren't problems with how the system works, but I think it's fair to ask the question. (Yes, even now.)

  6. #6
    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    And I really think you need to re-read that article. This crap doesn't happen overnite, and that's basically what the article says.
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    5|-|1+|-|34|) ober's Avatar
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    Alex, I'm going to take that as it is, because I know you're directly involved with all of this. But I don't think it is fair for us to sit here and say that they're not doing everything they can. You don't know. I don't know. Why sit here and bash them when they are trying to help?

    None of us know the full circumstances and whether or not they're doing all they can, so anything we say here is speculation. I'd say we should leave it at that.
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    Even death may die... Dante Shamest's Avatar
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    This crap doesn't happen overnite, and that's basically what the article says.
    I searched for the word "overnight" in that article, and I quote the Mayor:

    Then they told me that they went overnight, and they built 17 concrete structures and they had the pulleys on them and they were going to drop them.

    I flew over that thing yesterday, and it's in the same shape that it was after the storm hit. There is nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ober
    Alex, I'm going to take that as it is, because I know you're directly involved with all of this. But I don't think it is fair for us to sit here and say that they're not doing everything they can. You don't know. I don't know. Why sit here and bash them when they are trying to help?

    None of us know the full circumstances and whether or not they're doing all they can, so anything we say here is speculation. I'd say we should leave it at that.
    I absolutely agree that we shouldn't bash them--it's only fair for us to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone involved. One of my favorite press conferences was with the FEMA director, Michael Brown, because he did a good job of defending what was happening in the face of press criticisms.

    I'm more interested in people giving constructive criticism about the process--maybe there's really nothing that can come from it, but I like the idea of an informed citizenry enough to hope that a reasoned discussion can prove useful. I know that I, personally, am quite interested in the logistics of the whole process and what can and should be done. (If nothing else, I need to know what to think of the response by government officials before I vote in the next election.)

    For instance, perhaps one lesson that we can learn from this is that gunshop owners should take their supplies with them when they evacuate. Another might be that a central website for verifying identifies of survivors would be useful. (Or is there one? I know that local TV stations as well as CNN are running them, but something more central with the ability to verify identities might be nice.)

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    Software Developer jverkoey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webmaster
    One of my favorite press conferences was with the FEMA director, Michael Brown, because he did a good job of defending what was happening in the face of press criticisms.
    This one?
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/02/katrina.response/

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    A few of those excepts may have come from the press conference, but it was a bit more detailed. He basically pointed out some of the problems--massive logistical issues, difficulty of communications, wind damage blocking roads, the difficulty of lining up troops in preparation for the hurricane, pointing out that the troop situation in Iraq isn't affecting the number of national guard troops available and bringing up that what's happening is more or less the result of the plans from earlier exercises.

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    If any of you read the article featured on Slashdot a few days ago about what would happen if Hurricane Ivan had NOT missed New Orleans, you'll know that it was a frigthenly accurate description of what happened in Hurricane Katrina. IIRC, most of the predictions about how long it would take to start getting a handle on the situation are ringing extremely true as we see what really happened and how much was really damaged. I do think things could've been done better, but the OP is certainly being unnecessarily hard on those in authority.

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    The Right Honourable psychopath's Avatar
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    [edit]DELETED PARAGRAPH[/edit]

    It's interesting how most of the aid (evactuations, delivery of food and water, and ultimatly, proper organization), is being delivered on the same day that Pres. Bush arrived.
    An emergency just isn't an emergency unless you make it look good for the president.
    Also, when Bush arrived they gave him a briefing. Now, why did he need a breifing in a hanger, when they could have gave him all the information over a phone? Hmm.

    [edit]DELETED PARAGRAPH[/edit]

    -psychopath
    Last edited by psychopath; 09-02-2005 at 04:05 PM.
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    Maybe they should call in the MSF, UN or ICRC
    When was the last time someone "called in" the US to give aid to a foreign country? American organizations were getting a lot of things done about the tsunami without Thailand "calling us in". I don't see the UN taking much initiative themselves. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but most of the countries in the UN aren't exaclty in the habit of returning favors to the US.

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    Software Developer jverkoey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean_mackrory
    When was the last time someone "called in" the US to give aid to a foreign country? American organizations were getting a lot of things done about the tsunami without Thailand "calling us in". I don't see the UN taking much initiative themselves. Perhaps it's too early to tell, but most of the countries in the UN aren't exaclty in the habit of returning favors to the US.
    I believe Russia so far has offered help...or condolences, can't remember.

    -edit-
    Here we go: http://www.newsday.com/news/nationwo...news-headlines

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