Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans reaching a boiling point

As NewsMax reports, the situation in New Orleans is still very dangerous and chaotic. As the crisis now enters it's fifth day, it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of what has happened and what is still to come. In terms of life lost, destruction of property, damage to infrastructure and economic repercussions, this event may rival if not surpass Sept. 11 in it's impact.

In addition we now have a home-grown insurgency that has hampered and in some cases halted further rescue efforts. Looting was to be expected but everyone from the Mayor all the way up to the President was caught off guard by the level of lawlessness that has infested the city. It is greatly slowing rescue and evacuation efforts and an angry Mayor Nagin is now faulting the federal government for his city's woes:

"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night.

"They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn - excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed."

With the pressure Nagin is under, it is easy to see why he would be tempted to point the finger of blame elsewhere. But it also reveals a marked lack of character in his part at a time when he needs to be showing leadership -- a Giuliani he is clearly not. Ultimately he is the one responsible for his own city and what is now happening rests more on him and his policies than anyone else -- something I will go into at a later date.

In the meantime, there are still many to be rescued and to do that, the state is forced to employ harsh measures to deal with the criminal element that remains entrenched in the city:

Gov. Kathleen Blanco called the looters "hoodlums" and issued a warning to lawbreakers: Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.

"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," she said. "These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."
So much is going on that it is difficult to put it all together into anything comprehensive. As it stands we still face many serious problems:

This might sound drastic to some but it would be a lot more cruel to allow people to starve to death and go without medical care. That is not feasible until order is restored by whatever means possible. Many in the press are publishing accounts of hostile treatment at the hands of National Guard members and police officers but I am not going to go there. They are doing an extremely dangerous job and are heroes as far as I'm concerned. I know the press well enough to say with certainty that many of the more positive stories are probably going unreported.

Meanwhile the problems at the Superdome continue to escalate:

Nearby, about 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans Convention Center grew ever more hostile after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead.

Police Chief Eddie Compass said there was such a crush around a squad of 88 officers that they retreated when they went in to check out reports of assaults.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

By Thursday evening, 11 hours after the military began evacuating the Superdome, the arena held 10,000 more people than it did at dawn. Evacuees from across the city swelled the crowd to about 30,000 because they believed the arena was the best place to get a ride out of town.

Some of those among the mostly poor crowd had been in the dome for four days without air conditioning, working toilets or a place to bathe. One military policeman was shot in the leg as he and a man scuffled for the MP's rifle. The man was arrested.

By late Thursday, the flow of refugees to the Houston Astrodome was temporarily halted with a population of 11,325, less than half the estimated 23,000 people expected.

The multiple levels of crisis that affect this city and the national ripples that will follow are almost more than the mind can take in. One thing that is certain is that it will likely get worse before it gets better. All that the rest of us can do is keep praying and helping out as much as we can with our contributions.

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