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Friday, September 02, 2005

Escape from New Orleans

Watching Snake Plissken in Escape from LA I could never have imagined such a scenario occurring in the US. At least not in 2005.

A few days before cyclone Katrina visited the shores of the southern US states I was watching a detailed news briefing outlining the expected fall out from the hurricane, the measures taken to safeguard the city, the emergency planning and disaster preparedness. The 3D animations were very detailed, the scenario had been war-gamed previously and the news conference oozed with the confidence of technocrats. So where did it all go wrong?

Chaos and gunfire hampered efforts to evacuate the Superdome, and, Superintendent P. Edward Compass III of the New Orleans Police Department said, armed thugs have taken control of the secondary makeshift shelter at the convention center. Superintendent Compass said that the thugs repelled eight squads of 11 officers each he had sent to secure the place and that rapes and assaults were occurring unimpeded in the neighboring streets as criminals "preyed upon" passers-by, including stranded tourists [via dailykos]

It is sometimes said that the mark of progress is how a nation reacts in times of disaster. The US is the worlds most advanced country and the current sole superpower. If so how did they allow for the currently unfolding, unmitigated disaster that is New Orleans? I am baffled by the mistakes and un(der) preparedness. Even in the aftermath of the much more disastrous SE Asian Tsunami there didn't appear to be the near anarchy, chaos and lawlessness as what appears to have gripped some areas of New Orleans.

A few questions I can think of .....

  • Is this the end of small-government talk in the US for a while?
  • Why wasn't there any support structure at the convention centre?
  • What happened to the disaster preparedness and management plans?
  • Did the looters and gangs easily access guns and firearms from abandoned shops (i.e. gun control)?
  • Would this bring more focus on the plight of the US poor?
  • Is the US heading to a recession?
  • What is the impact on the world economy and how does it cope with shocks to the US economy?
  • Have the republicans lost the next election?

John Quiggin has been looking at the economic fallout following the storm damage. Follow Hurricane Watch where they are covering the ongoing situation.

If history is any guide, knowing the human condition, it's not surprising to see such behaviour in light of food and water shortages. What has become of Homo economicus ?



  • At 3:12 am AEST, Anonymous indi said…

    that's the movie i thought of as well. I've never seen so much human suffering. This is really embarassing for America, like how can you mess it up so badly?

    This is on an ancient list of security threats, yet it's been completely ignored. Wtf is Homeland Security except bureacracy and pork?

    This'll probably be worse for America than 9-11, according to Slate

  • At 11:55 am AEST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for the informative post, keep up the good work!

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  • At 6:08 pm AEST, Anonymous Ashanthi said…

    Great coverage IVAP - well researched.

    It's is phenomenal & overwhelming. I am feeling extremely sorry for these people but it is nothing compared to the month of tears I shed for us. I'm afraid of course it is plain to see that the colour card has been played in New Orleans - but they will get help & they do have the resources.

    Let's hope George Bush doesn't go and invade another 3rd world country to give Fox news something else to talk about....

    All the best with the Rugby test - hope the Ozzies win for Greagan's sake. Got to see some of the World cup series live in Sydney - it was a real joy.

    Yeah Melbourne is cool - but Sydney is the best - it's fantastic. I take it you are not involved in any "peace" efforts in Australia? Do you mix with any Tamil people & engage in such robust discussions with them? I have dreams that maybe one day we can broker a peace deal out of SL - yes, yes, I know - it's a dream alright but hey, a nice one :-)

    Hey - we might even be able to have a SL Rugby team - hmm maybe not quite our sport!

  • At 10:29 pm AEST, Blogger ivap said…

    indi - Thanks for the link. It's an eye opener. Never bought into the "new" economy thing that much. The old economy is more like the foundations on which the networked economies function. I suppose your dad has some views on this too.


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