I’m watching the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and I’m thinking, that’s not the worst hurricane I’ve ever seen. Why the high death toll? Why the high levels of damage? From what little I can tell from my vantage point, it doesn’t look like everything was done that could be done to prepare for the possibility of natural disasters. The evacuation and sheltering efforts look like they might be fairly ad hoc.
I found a fellow thinker in Whitley Strieber, who expanded on these points in his brilliant essay, “Lesson of the Storms”, saying
“The House of Representatives, at the request of the Bush administration, cut 70 million dollars from the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget for the New Orleans District. Last year, it essentially ended disaster planning for the region by transferring the chore to a private company, IEM Corp., and giving it a $500,000 budget. Now, it has shelved a study that was to determine ways to protect the city from a Category 5 hurricane.”
and going on to claim
“The disaster that has befallen New Orleans could have been ameliorated if the Army Corps of Engineers had been able to examine the levees and if they had been adequately maintained. It did not have the budget to do this properly in recent years and, with the new cuts, has no ability even to repair levees, let alone reinforce them.”
Whoa. The implications are staggering. Did politics and incompetence doom people to die unnecessarily? Whitley speculates that the heavily democratic voting base in New Orleans was one cause of this neglect. I know that other countries sacrifice people’s lives in a disaster to make political points. I just never thought that the United States did that.
Read the rest of “Lesson of the Storms” here.
I’ve found Whitley Strieber to be prescient on many subjects. His intelligent reporting and writing can be found at his website, Unknown Country.