Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: A Different Set of Questions

Natural disasters are regular occurrences throughout the world. Until recently, they were rarely covered: 250,000 perish in a flood in Asia; typhoon wipes out 10,000s in the Asian subcontinent; thousands perish in African famine; and hurricane destroys thousands of homes and businesses. In all cases, they are tragic. People go on; they rebuild; they relocate; they deal with it in their own ways. What's different about Hurricane Katrina?

It happened in the U.S., close to the mighty media, who are always looking for a way to sell papers, periodicals, and A/V air time. In this case, the typical coverage is less than stellar. Like always, they focus on the negative.

Why is the media focus on New Orleans? Why have they completely ignored the other areas in Louisiana and Mississippi? There are plenty of people there that have lost everything.

Why haven't they covered the people walking out of the flooded areas? Certainly some chose not to walk--a story in itself. Some were unable to walk.

Why do most people placed in such dire conditions endure them quite admiralty? Why was the focus on the few people who showed their heathanistic behavior?

They talk about the dead, the rapes, the assaults, the theft, the shootings, as if this is something new in a large U.S. city. How many deaths, rapes, assaults, thefts, shootings occur in New Orleans over the course of a normal 5 days? I would guess that more occur during a normal five days than have occurred during this aftermath. There were a few thousand stranded and suffering but there were 100,000s that made it out.

Ever thought about all of the valuable items in New Orleans' homes, offices, government buildings, and museums that were (are) covered in water? Seems to me that professional thiefs would be opportunistic. I can hear them saying: "if N.O. gets flooded (the disaster everyone was expecting), we are going to steal the gold coins in bank ABC"; or "...the paintings at Joe Smith's house"; or "...the jewelry at the Jones' house." That's more interesting than the losers stealing TVs, guns or shoes. Don't think that some of this has not happened.

The political repercussions are going to be ugly. They need not be. Disasters happen. Lessons are learned. But it seems that people are always trying to assign blame. This will fill the airways for months, if not years. If the discussion focused on disaster prevention and recovery, risk mitigation, and urban design, then the experience makes us better.

I am so impressed by the actions of millions--their time, their resources, their money. What I have learned from experience is that where some of the worst are, some of the best are there also.

Finally, I am not a Republican nor a Democrats, but if anyone tries to blame Pres. Gush for this; i.e., the problems with the rescue in N.O., he or she is an idiot. I hope the people that scream "we can get water to the people in Indonesia after the tsunami or we can fight a war in Iraq but we can't rescue people in our own country or feed our own people" must be temporarily caught up in the moment. If you are one of those who think like this, I feel sorry for you. You must lead a very miserable life.