The crisis in New Orleans continues to worsen. In what has been characterized as a complete breakdown of organized society, thousands are stranded without food, electricity, or adequate shelter while widespread looting and violence spirals out of control. In the wake of the storm, crumbling levees added more stock to the toxic soup now simmering in the bowl-shaped city; the increasingly corrosive flood waters still have no place to go, no way to leave - unlike so many storms, these waters cannot simply recede. They must be pumped out, and that is far on the back burner given all the other problems facing the city, state, and federal governments.
Earlier this morning, the New Orleans riverfront was rocked by explosions, perhaps involving a chemical factory. More National Guard troops are arriving, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco says the troops "know how to shoot to kill ... and I expect they will." President Bush has called earlier efforts unacceptable, and promises to restore order.
Bush opened the day at the White House where he expressed unhappiness with the efforts so far to provide food and water to hurricane victims and to stop looting and lawlessness in New Orleans. "The results are not acceptable," said Bush, who rarely admits failure.
The president's comments came after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at federal officials, telling a local radio station "they don't have a clue what's going on down here."
Meanwhile, the political denouncements continue to mount. There is a raging debate over whether global warming may have contributed to the hurricane's strength. And even when the president's critics do not chastise him for the failure to embrace the Kyoto accords, they decry the sluggish federal response to the crisis and suggest that the administration may bear responsibility for a significant portion of the damage because of budgetary decisions not to fund repairs to the levees which ultimately failed.
As the Houston Chronicle reports, the chaos in New Orleans had been foretold for some time. In 2001, the Chronicle ran a story that read, in part:
New Orleans is sinking.
And its main buffer from a hurricane, the protective Mississippi River delta, is quickly eroding away, leaving the historic city perilously close to disaster.