Three years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the US Gulf Coast. The storm devastated nearly 100,000 square miles and displaced over a million people. New Orleans, Louisiana, bore the brunt of this disaster, after the levee system failed and nearly 80 percent of the city was submerged.
Overwhelmingly those most deeply affected by Katrina were among the poorest layers of the working class in a long-impoverished and neglected region of the United States. In the days following the hurricane’s landfall, the initial tragedy in New Orleans was compounded by official neglect, incompetence, and military repression.
However, reflecting the fact that no substantive improvements in safety procedures were implemented after Katrina, no emergency shelters are scheduled to open in New Orleans—nor are there any even designated. In fact, city officials have described the decision as a deliberate attempt to discourage residents from staying.
As of Friday, press reports indicate only 150 of 700 promised buses have been secured for the anticipated evacuation of 30,000 city residents. No shelter arrangements have been made for the nearly 7,000 families still consigned to living in flimsy, storm-vulnerable federal trailers within the New Orleans metro area.
Federal emergency planning has been no better. In an editorial Friday, the New York Times noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had not fulfilled promises of having an emergency housing plan in place for the inevitable further hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast.
The lack of preparation at all levels of government represents yet another invitation for disaster. This negligence further testifies to the fraudulent, profiteering character of the Gulf Coast reconstruction over the past several years and to its utter disregard for the plight of the working class.
They Are Back! Gustav is barreling down on the area and the hurricane prep work may not be adequate to handle the destruction. Gustav may hit the Gulf Coast as a cat 4 or 5 storm. We will see if the confidence that was placed in elected officials was worth the effort or not.