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History > 2005 > USA > Natural disasters > Hurricane Katrina (I)

 

 

 

The body of a victim of Hurricane Katrina

floats in floodwaters in New Orleans

01 September, 2005.

 

Katrina was the costliest hurricane on record,

and took the lives of over 1,800 people.

 

Photograph:

JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images

 

Boston Globe > Big Picture

The decade in news photographs        December 18, 2009

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/12/the_decade_in_news_photographs.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane death toll rises;

Bush back in New Orleans

 

Sun Sep 11, 2005
11:02 PM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The official death toll from Hurricane Katrina climbed past 400 on Sunday as President George W. Bush arrived in New Orleans where there were signs of renewed life even as soldiers hunted for the dead.

The confirmed death count from the August 29 storm, which has displaced a million people, was far lower than initial projections that ran into the thousands.

"We didn't lose as many lives as had been predicted although we're still in the process of finding those we lost," said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Bush was greeted at the airport by Mayor Ray Nagin as he began his third visit to the disaster region. They took a helicopter to the USS Iwo Jima, a U.S. Marine helicopter ship docked near downtown New Orleans on the Mississippi River, where Bush planned to spend the night.

On Sunday evening he went to a base camp for hundreds of firefighters from around the country who had come to help, shaking hands and putting his arm around shoulders.

The search for the dead -- and perhaps some victims still alive and trapped -- went on in the now largely deserted city that was home to 450,000 people before Katrina.

Members of the Oklahoma National Guard moved through a middle-class residential area, breaking down doors.

The water in that area had once stood 7 feet deep but had now receded, leaving a layer of stinking sludge. Soldiers were stumbling out of houses coughing and choking from the overwhelming stench.

"Oh, it's bad in there," said Spec. Bobby Cunningham as he came out of one home. "You're out of air anyway from kicking the door down and then that smell hits you."

"There could be someone who can't get up out of bed, an elderly lady could be in there dying. So we go into every room, every closet, in every house," added Spec. Daniel Robinson.

Boat teams navigated the flooded streets of the worst-hit neighborhoods, using axes to break into the attics of homes. Helicopters spun overhead all day although there were no signs of rooftop rescues.

 

SIGNS OF LIFE

There were increasing signs that the below-sea-level city was staggering back to life following the flood that engulfed most of it when levees were breached after Katrina stormed into Mississippi and Louisiana.

New Orleans police said they had decided not to forcibly evict anyone still in the city, despite an order for everyone to get out and earlier threats to use force. The thousands of holdouts who stayed were being told that if they remained, they would be on their own facing floodwaters poisoned by sewage and chemicals.

Public health officials announced they would start spraying for flies and mosquitoes on Monday.

Louisiana State Police said they would issue permits for business owners to visit their properties in the central commercial district but told them they could go nowhere else in the city.

Gary LaFarge, head of the Port of New Orleans, said the facility suffered serious damage but not as bad as feared, and could be back to normal in four to five months. Twenty percent of U.S. imports and exports pass through the port and it provides jobs for 100,000 in the region.

Louisiana raised its official death count to 197, while Mississippi, the other hardest hit state, had 211 confirmed killed. There were also fatalities, though much lower numbers, in Alabama and Florida.

"I think it's going to be a lower number, much lower than the 10,000," said Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is in charge of the military forces in the area, citing one early estimate of the death toll. "That 10,000 was based at a time when we didn't know what we didn't know."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said 1,600 children were still listed as missing by their parents, or were seeking their families.

 

INSURANCE WOES

In coastal Mississippi where some towns were flattened, residents trying to pick up the pieces had another battle on their hands.

"The pitiful thing here is that insurance companies are trying to stiff us," said Eve Jaspers, a Mississippi deputy sheriff, who didn't buy flood coverage because her house was built on high land.

"They're telling me this was flood damage," she said. "The walls fell out. The front door is in the garage, God knows where the garage door is. It was clearly a small tornado."

Bush's latest visit to the region coincided with the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which killed 2,700 people.

Then, he was able to unite and rally the nation but now he faces withering criticism for a faltering government response to the August 29 hurricane. His approval ratings is at the lowest point of is presidency.

In the flooded city, hundreds of New York firefighters who battled the conflagrations in their city four years ago, attended an outdoor Catholic mass in New Orleans.

Michael Weinlein, assistant chief of operations for the New York fire department, said: "We worked side by side as we dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center. We have come to repay that debt."

"Our life has been changed for ever," added Peter Weiss, a New Orleans fire department chaplain at the service and New York native. "We'd always heard of the Big One but we'd always escape it. On August 28, Katrina had New Orleans in its sights and nothing was going to change its destination."

Hurricane death toll rises; Bush back in New Orleans,
R,
11.9.2005,
http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-12T030117Z_01_KNE077648_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Waters recede

but frustration high in New Orleans

 

Sun Sep 11, 2005
11:03 AM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush headed to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday to confront a region where the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina were receding but anger and frustration still overflowed.

"I'm finding a lot of frustration, and it's a lot easier to deal with frustration than anger," said Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard, who was put in charge of rescue and recovery on Friday.

Bush's visit coincided with the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington which killed some 2,700 people.

Then, he was able to unite and rally the nation. Now, he faces withering criticism for a bumbling governmental response to the August 29 hurricane and is suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on NBC's "Meet the Press" he had the impression Bush was badly informed in the immediate aftermath of the storm which flooded his city, stranding thousands of people unwilling or unable to evacuate.

"I think the president for some reason probably did not understand the full magnitude of this catastrophe on the front end," said Nagin, who is himself facing severe criticism for his performance.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco could not reach either Bush or his chief of staff on the day the hurricane hit and had to leave a message pleading for help with a low level adviser, Time magazine reported.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Bush seemed to lack empathy for those stranded by the hurricane, which devastated a large swathe of the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, driving around a million people from their homes

"It's puzzling, given his immediate response during 9/11, that he did not feel a greater sense of empathy toward the folks that were experiencing this enormous disaster," Obama said on ABC's "This Week."

He said the Bush administration was excellent at public relations but less effective when it came to action.

 

REPAY DEBT

Allen, appearing on the same program, again urged residents still refusing to leave New Orleans, thought to number several thousand, to do so.

"The conditions in which they're living -- the water is deteriorating, the environmental conditions -- this is not a safe place to be until we get everybody out, the water has been completely drained and we do environmental assessments here," he said.

"Everybody needs to be out of New Orleans so we can move forward and repair the infrastructure."

In the flooded city, hundreds of New York firefighters who battled the conflagrations in their city four years ago, attended a Catholic mass on a field north of New Orleans.

New York fire department assistant chief of operations Michael Weinlein said: "We worked side by side as we dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center. We have come to repay that debt."

The most hopeful sign emerging from the tragedy was that initial estimates that fatalities could reach as high as 10,000 appeared to be wildly exaggerated.

"I think it's going to be a lower number, much lower than the 10,000. That 10,000 was based at a time when we didn't know what we didn't know," Army Lt. Gen. Russell Honore told CNN.

"From talking to the city officials and communicating with the parish presidents, I think intuitively we were saying that number will be much lower," he said,

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Saturday it would take half the time originally thought to pump New Orleans dry -- 40 days not 80. Seventy-four of the city's 174 pumps were operating, sucking water poisoned with chemicals, gasoline and sewage out of the historic below-sea level city.

In Louisiana, the official death toll stood at 154. Mississippi, the other hardest hit state, had 211 confirmed killed. There were also fatalities, though much lower numbers, in Alabama and Florida.

 

THIRD TRIP

Bush's visit to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday and Monday will be his third since Katrina hit.

The White House has dispatched a host of top officials, from Vice President Dick Cheney to members of the Cabinet, on almost daily trips in the past week to the Gulf Coast to see the storm damage but also to blunt criticism the administration was unaware of the depth of the crisis and slow to respond.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's much maligned chief, Michael Brown, was abruptly recalled to Washington last week and relieved of direct supervision of the hurricane recovery efforts.

With the rising cost of Katrina and concerns among the public and on Capitol Hill about the price tag, estimated to be between $100 billion to $200 billion, polls indicated Americans wanted the White House to do more.

An estimated one million people have been displaced from their homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

FEMA said it has distributed $688 million in aid to displaced families. The money went to nearly 268,000 households in Louisiana, 52,000 in Mississippi and 12,000 in Alabama.

The American Red Cross said it has received $503 million in gifts and pledges for hurricane relief and has been able to provide 6 million meals and operate 675 shelters in 23 states.

The organization, which has 36,000 volunteers in the field, said it is seeking 40,000 more.

Waters recede but frustration high in New Orleans, R, 11.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-11T150222Z_01_KNE077648_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

N.O. airport demand recovery

make take years

 

Sun Sep 11, 2005
1:48 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE (Reuters) - It could be as little as a year or as long as five years before New Orleans' main airport experience the kind of demand it had before Hurricane Katrina struck the region last week, the airport's aviation director said on Sunday.

"We're going to get back to 174 daily departures, maybe in 12 months, maybe in 36 months, maybe 60 months -- it's too early to say," Roy Williams told Reuters. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport handles 80 percent of the state's commercial and cargo air traffic.

The airport is set to reopen to commercial traffic on Tuesday.

Williams told reporters in a daily briefing that Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines Corp. and Continental Airlines all want to return to the airport as soon as possible.

Williams also said Southwest Airlines "will definitely be back in force." Southwest is the largest carrier operating at the airport.

But the airport's two international carriers, Air Canada and Grupo Taca, may take longer to return, he said, because of some of the other emergency operations that are utilizing the international facilities at the airport.

Some traffic will be better than none for the airport. The facility runs entirely on user fees and does not get any local tax revenue, so it has been losing $200,000 a day since the storm hit August 29.

Williams said officials were already talking with the Federal Aviation Administration about how it might help.

"They have already contacted us about how they can help with the impact of this situation," he said.

    N.O. airport demand recovery make take years, R, 11.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&story
    ID=2005-09-11T174720Z_01_EIC164054_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-AIRPORT-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Officials Cite Progress,

Though Many Problems Remain

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By BRIAN KNOWLTON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 - Government officials leading the response to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina said today that they had made significant progress over the weekend toward restoring calm, control and some services in New Orleans, even as President Bush headed there for a symbolic overnight stay in the area.

"Things are working wonderfully here on the ground," Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the United States Coast Guard official now overseeing federal relief efforts, said on Fox Television today, in one of the more upbeat assessments offered since Hurricane Katrina's disastrous passage nearly two weeks ago.

Staggering problems remained in the devastated region, not least the continued recovery of the dead, and the aching needs of the roughly one million people displaced from their homes. But a few positive indicators emerged.

With a systematic search well under way, the official death toll for the region has remained under 400, and while it is certain to increase, officials believe it will be well below the earlier worst-case prediction by Mayor C. Ray Nagin of perhaps 10,000 in the New Orleans area alone.

Referring to that prediction, the army officer overseeing active-duty forces in the region, Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, said on CNN that he expected the total to be "a heck of a lot lower than that." He said better information would be available by midweek as house-to-house searches continued.

The Army Corps of Engineers, halving an earlier estimate of 80 days, said that New Orleans might be completely drained by mid-October. Hundreds of city engineers have worked nonstop the last two weeks, sleeping on floors in their pumping stations. Water has fallen 5 feet in places, allowing sludge-covered buildings slowly to emerge.

Most of the city's central business district now has power - City Hall will soon have electricity and running water, officials said - and life in some restaurants, shops and inns has begun to stir.

. Meanwhile, relief efforts have continued to expand, as aid has poured in from across the country and from abroad, and evacuees have been offered housing and help across the country.

But sharp criticism of the government's efforts remained. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a Democrat, said she welcomed Admiral Allen's comments, but insisted that local officials were not alone to blame for an evacuation that initially left as many as 100,000 people behind in New Orleans. So many were left behind, she said in an interview on Fox Television, "because this federal government won't support cities to evacuate people, whether it's from earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes. That's the truth."

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader who has harshly attacked the federal response to the disaster, was asked on CNN whether she was satisfied with an improved response. "I don't know what there is to be satisfied with," she said.

Meanwhile, officials announced today that they planned to resume commercial flights into and out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Tuesday, a vital step to bolster reconstruction efforts in the flood-ravaged city.

The cost of those efforts continued to rise. Federal spending on relief and reconstruction now appear certain to reach $200 billion in coming weeks. Analysts said these costs might eventually approach the more than $300 billion spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps forcing some tough reordering of priorities in Congress.

And while New Orleans is drying out, extensive pipe breaks in the sewerage and water systems mean it could be three months before the full city has drinkable tap water.

Underscoring the vast scope of continued needs, the American Red Cross appealed Saturday for 40,000 people to volunteer to help the Gulf Coast. The organization already has 36,000 volunteers working in 675 shelters, tending to the needs of more than 160,000 evacuees.

In one sign of how thoroughly lives have been uprooted, Mr. Nagin has bought a house in Dallas and enrolled his daughter in school there, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The mayor, whose own house suffered extensive storm damage, said he would continue to spend most of his time in New Orleans.

After observing a moment of silence Sunday morning for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr. Bush was flying back to the region, in his third visit since Katrina hit, this time to spend the night. The president was schedule to arrive in the late afternoon on the USS Iwo Jima, anchored near New Orleans, and will spend the night there before visiting New Orleans and Mississippi tomorrow.

Admiral Allen, named Friday to take over direct operations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from its embattled head, Michael D. Brown, said on Fox that he had all the authority he needed to cut through bureaucratic barriers to action.

"I have specific marching orders from Secretary Chertoff; I'm enabled to make decisions down here," he said, referring to the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff. "I feel empowered."

"I have the full support of FEMA and I think things are working wonderfully here on the ground."

Admiral Allen insisted that coordination among local, state and federal officials had improved considerably. "I've been actually overwhelmed with the unity of purpose," he said.

Still, a contentious debate lingered about whether the response was slower because its victims were predominantly poor and black - criticism the administration has pointedly rejected. The only African-American senator, Barack Obama of Illinois, said that the feeling among many blacks was clear.

" I think that, in the African American community, there's a sense that the passive indifference that's shown towards the folks in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans or on the West Side of Chicago or in Harlem - that that passive indifference is as bad as active malice," he said on ABC-TV.

But a Republican, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, said, with evident frustration, that he was weary of the "ridiculous arguments from Washington" about who was to blame.

"Nobody here in the stricken area is talking about that nonsense," he said on CNN. "I just wish folks in Washington would get with it, and get real and focus on the challenge on hand and stop this from becoming a political football."

General Honore said again today that federal troops would not take part in forcible evacuations. "That is a local and state law enforcement task not to include federal troops," he told CNN. The general said his men were providing food, water and assistance even to those refusing to leave; he said local officials were doing the same.

Many of those residents who managed to ride out the storm, especially those whose homes are on higher ground, have complained that they see no need to quit the city now, leaving their houses perhaps to be looted. They say they are determined to stay and help in rebuilding efforts.

So long as federal and state authorities, whose growing presence has provided essential support to local police officers, remain reluctant to use force, it was unclear how that standoff would finally be resolved.

Officials Cite Progress, Though Many Problems Remain, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Airport

to Reopen for Commercial Flights

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By SEWELL CHAN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 11 - Officials announced today that they plan to resume commercial flights into and out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Tuesday, a critical precursor to any reconstruction effort in the flood-ravaged city.

The airport also formally reopened for cargo traffic today, and its largest freight carrier, Federal Express, intended to fly into the airport by nightfall. On Tuesday, the airport hopes to have 30 daily departures and arrivals - down from 174 before the storm - and 60 each day by the end of October.

The 2.5-square-mile airport is about 15 miles west of New Orleans, in the town of Kenner, in Jefferson Parish. Hurricane Katrina cut power to the airport, partly flooded one of the two runways and caused significant roof damage to one concourse.

But the main airline terminal, which dates to 1959, was barely damaged, and power and electricity were restored within four days. Now the airport is home to nearly 5,000 soldiers and airmen and a medical triage center that the Army is converting into a field hospital.

The airport's director, Roy A. Williams, had said in an interview on Friday that he hoped to resume civil flights by Sept. 19. But today, before a news conference in Baton Rouge, he said that the airlines and cargo carriers, as well as the local authorities, had all urged him to reopen the airport even sooner.

"Initially we expect more inbound customers than outbound as people come back in and participate in disaster recovery," Mr. Williams said. Continental, Delta and Northwest airlines all have committed to operate flights on Tuesday, but the three carriers told the airport that they would not have their schedules finalized and publicly available until Monday.

The airport, which is run by the New Orleans Aviation Board, a nine-member municipal panel, was the conduit for 80 percent of passenger and air cargo traffic in Louisiana before the storm. In the past two weeks officials worried that the airport would be eclipsed by Baton Rouge Municipal Airport, as relief workers, government officials and government workers have poured into the state capital.

The airport has been transformed dramatically over the past two weeks and Mr. Williams acknowledged that the terminal would have to be configured to accept passengers again. Some of the food and retail shops will reopen, and the baggage conveyor belts will start moving again.

"We actually have converted the baggage claim into a very large sleeping hall," Mr. Williams said today. "It is air-conditioned and relatively quiet. We will shift around and the baggage claim will become a functioning baggage claim."

The restoration of flights to and from the airport does not signify a larger return to normalcy.

New Orleans remains under a virtual lockdown, with checkpoints at each of the entrances into the city. The police officers, sheriff's deputies, soldiers and airmen who guard the checkpoints have largely restricted access to members of government agencies, relief organizations and the news media to enter.

Mr. Williams made it clear that ordinary citizens from New Orleans trying to return may not be able to go from the airport to the city.

At first, government officials, nonprofit and humanitarian workers and journalists will probably be the main people flying in, compared with the tourist and leisure travelers who were a mainstay of the airport before the storm. "Ninety-nine percent of the folks coming in and out of Armstrong in the next few weeks are going to have a purpose and they're going to have a reason to be there," Mr. Williams said.

The airport, which was known as Moisant Field when it opened in 1946 on surplus Army property that the federal government sold to the City of New Orleans, was once one of the largest commercial airports in the nation. It was renamed New Orleans International Airport in 1960 and renamed again, for the jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, in 2001.

    New Orleans Airport to Reopen for Commercial Flights, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11cnd-airport.html

 

 

 

 

 

Breakdowns Marked Path

From Hurricane to Anarchy

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON,
CHRISTOPHER DREW,
SCOTT SHANE
and DAVID ROHDE

 

The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.

Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.

They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal, state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough to empty the shelters.

The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials expected the state and city to direct their own efforts and ask for help as needed. Leaders in Louisiana and New Orleans, though, were so overwhelmed by the scale of the storm that they were not only unable to manage the crisis, but they were not always exactly sure what they needed. While local officials assumed that Washington would provide rapid and considerable aid, federal officials, weighing legalities and logistics, proceeded at a deliberate pace.

FEMA appears to have underestimated the storm, despite an extraordinary warning from the National Hurricane Center that it could cause "human suffering incredible by modern standards." The agency dispatched only 7 of its 28 urban search and rescue teams to the area before the storm hit and sent no workers at all into New Orleans until after the hurricane passed on Monday, Aug. 29.

On Tuesday, a FEMA official who had just flown over the ravaged city by helicopter seemed to have trouble conveying to his bosses the degree of destruction, according to a New Orleans city councilwoman.

"He got on the phone to Washington, and I heard him say, 'You've got to understand how serious this is, and this is not what they're telling me, this is what I saw myself,' " the councilwoman, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, recalled.

State and federal officials had spent two years working on a disaster plan to prepare for a massive storm, but it was incomplete and had failed to deal with two issues that proved most critical: transporting evacuees and imposing law and order.

The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to Iraq, was hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20 vehicles that could have carried soldiers through the watery streets and had to abandon much of its most advanced communications equipment, guard officials said.

Partly because of the shortage of troops, violence raged inside the New Orleans convention center, which interviews show was even worse than previously described. Police SWAT team members found themselves plunging into the darkness, guided by the muzzle flashes of thugs' handguns, said Capt. Jeffrey Winn.

"In 20 years as a cop, doing mostly tactical work, I have never seen anything like it," said Captain Winn. Three of his officers quit, he said, and another simply disappeared.

Officials said yesterday that 10 people died at the Superdome, and 24 died at the convention center site, although the causes were not clear.

Oliver Thomas, the New Orleans City Council president, expressed a view shared by many in city and state government: that a national disaster requires a national response. "Everybody's trying to look at it like the City of New Orleans messed up," Mr. Thomas said in an interview. "But you mean to tell me that in the richest nation in the world, people really expected a little town with less than 500,000 people to handle a disaster like this? That's ludicrous to even think that."

Andrew Kopplin, Governor Blanco's chief of staff, took a similar position. "This was a bigger natural disaster than any state could handle by itself, let alone a small state and a relatively poor one," Mr. Kopplin said.

Federal officials seem to have belatedly come to the same conclusion. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said future "ultra-catastrophes" like Hurricane Katrina would require a more aggressive federal role. And Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whom President Bush had publicly praised a week earlier for doing "a heck of a job," was pushed aside on Friday, replaced by a take-charge admiral.

Russ Knocke, press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said that any detailed examination of the response to the storm's assault will uncover shortcomings by many parties. "I don't believe there is one critical error," he said. "There are going to be some missteps that were made by everyone involved."

But Richard A. Falkenrath, a former homeland security adviser in the Bush White House, said the chief federal failure was not anticipating that the city and state would be so compromised. He said the response exposed "false advertising" about how the government has been transformed four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Frankly, I wasn't surprised that it went the way it did," Mr. Falkenrath said.

 

Initial Solidarity

At midafternoon on that Monday, a few hours after the hurricane made landfall, state and federal leaders appeared together at a news conference in Baton Rouge in a display of solidarity.

Governor Blanco lavished her gratitude on Mr. Brown, the FEMA chief.

"Director Brown," she said, "I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated - these are the times that really count - to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need." Senator Mary L. Landrieu pitched in: "We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time."

Mr. Brown replied in the same spirit: "What I've seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls."

At that point, New Orleans seemed to have been spared the worst of the storm, although some areas were already being flooded through breaches in levees. But when widespread flooding forced the city into crisis, Monday's confidence crumbled, exposing serious weaknesses in the machinery of emergency services.

Questions had been raised about FEMA, since it was swallowed by the Department of Homeland Security, established after Sept. 11. Its critics complained that it focused too much on terrorism, hurting preparations for natural disasters, and that it had become politicized. Mr. Brown is a lawyer who came to the agency with political connections but little emergency management experience. That's also true of Patrick J. Rhode, the chief of staff at FEMA, who was deputy director of advance operations for the Bush campaign and the Bush White House.

Scott R. Morris, who was deputy chief of staff at FEMA and is now director of its recovery office on Florida, had worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Tex., as a media strategist for the Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. And David I. Maurstad was the Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska before he became director of FEMA's regional office in Denver and then a senior official at the agency's headquarters.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA employees, wrote to Congress in June 2004, complaining, "Seasoned staff members are being pushed aside to make room for inexperienced novices and contractors."

With the new emphasis on terrorism, three quarters of the $3.35 billion in federal grants for fire and police departments and other first responders were intended to address terror threats, instead of an "all-hazards" approach that could help in any catastrophe.

Even so, the prospect of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was a FEMA priority. Numerous drills and studies had been undertaken to prepare a response. In 2002, Joe M. Allbaugh, then the FEMA director, said: "Catastrophic disasters are best defined in that they totally outstrip local and state resources, which is why the federal government needs to play a role. There are a half-dozen or so contingencies around the nation that cause me great concern, and one of them is right there in your backyard."

Federal officials vowed to work with local authorities to improve the hurricane response, but the plan for Louisiana was not finished when Hurricane Katrina hit. State officials said it did not yet address transportation or crime control, two issues that proved crucial. Col. Terry J. Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans since 2003, said he never spoke with FEMA about the state disaster blueprint. So New Orleans had its own plan.

At first glance, Annex I of the "City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" is reassuring. Forty-one pages of matter-of-fact prose outline a seemingly exhaustive list of hurricane evacuation procedures, including a "mobile command center" that could replace a disabled city hall.

New Orleans had used $18 million in federal funding since 2002 to stage exercises, train for emergencies and build relay towers to improve emergency communications. After years of delay, a new $16 million command center was to be completed by 2007. There was talk of upgrading emergency power and water supplies at the Superdome, the city's emergency shelter of "last resort," as part of a new deal with the tenants, the New Orleans Saints.

But the city's plan says that about 100,000 residents "do not have means of personal transportation" to evacuate, and there are few details on how they would be sheltered.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged states and cities to file emergency preparedness strategies it has not set strict standards for evacuation plans.

"There is a very loose requirement in terms of when it gets done and what the quality is," said Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security. "There is not a lot of urgency."

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin largely followed the city plan, eventually ordering the city's first-ever mandatory evacuation. Although 80 percent of New Orleans's population left, as many as 100,000 people remained.

Colonel Ebbert decided to make the Superdome the city's lone shelter, assuming the city would only have to shelter people in the arena for 48 hours, until the storm passed or the federal government came and rescued people.

As early as Friday, Aug. 26, as Hurricane Katrina moved across the Gulf of Mexico, officials in the watch center at FEMA headquarters in Washington discussed the need for buses.

Someone said, "We should be getting buses and getting people out of there," recalled Leo V. Bosner, an emergency management specialist with 26 years at FEMA and president of an employees' union. Others nodded in agreement, he said.

"We could all see it coming, like a guided missile," Mr. Bosner said of the storm. "We, as staff members at the agency, felt helpless. We knew that major steps needed to be taken fast, but, for whatever reasons, they were not taken."

 

Drivers Afraid

When the water rose, the state began scrambling to find buses. Officials pleaded with various parishes across the state for school buses. But by Tuesday, Aug. 30, as news reports of looting and violence appeared, local officials began resisting.

Governor Blanco said the bus drivers, many of them women, "got afraid to drive. So then we looked for somebody of authority to drive the school buses."

FEMA stepped in to assemble a fleet of buses, said Natalie Rule, an agency spokeswoman, only after a request from the state that she said did not come until Wednesday, Aug. 31. Greyhound Lines began sending buses into New Orleans within two hours of getting FEMA approval on Wednesday, said Anna Folmnsbee, a Greyhound spokeswoman. But the slow pace and reports of desperation and violence at the Superdome led to the governor's frustrated appeal in the state emergency center on Wednesday night.

She eventually signed an executive order that required parishes to turn over their buses, said Lt. Col. William J. Doran III, operations director for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"Just the logistics of wrangling up enough buses to get the people out of the dome took us three days," Colonel Doran said. A separate transportation problem arose for nursing homes. In some cases, delays proved deadly.

State regulations require nursing homes to have detailed evacuation plans and signed evacuation contracts with private transportation companies, according to Louisiana officials.

Yet 70 percent of the New Orleans area's 53 nursing homes were not evacuated before the hurricane struck Monday morning, according to the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. This week, searchers discovered 32 bodies in one nursing home in Chalmette, a community just outside New Orleans.

Mark Cartwright, a member of the nursing home association's emergency preparedness committee, said 3,400 patients were safely evacuated from the city. An unknown number of patients died awaiting evacuation or during evacuation.

"I've heard stories," Mr. Cartwright said. "Because rescuers didn't come, people were succumbing to the heat." Mr. Cartwright said some nursing home managers ignored the mayor's mandatory evacuation order, choosing to keep their frail patients in place and wait out the storm.

 

Symbols of Despair

The confluence of these planning failures and the levee breaks helped turn two of the most visible features of the New Orleans skyline - the Superdome and the mile-long convention center - into deathtraps and symbols of the city's despair.

At the Superdome, the initial calm turned to fear as a chunk of the white roof ripped away in the wind, dropping debris on the Saints' fleur-de-lis logo on the 50-yard-line. The electricity was knocked out, leaving only dim lights inside the windowless building. The dome quickly became a giant sauna, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Two-thirds of the 24,000 people huddled inside were women, children or elderly, and many were infirm, said Lonnie C. Swain, an assistant police superintendent overseeing the 90 policemen who patrolled the facility with 300 troops from the Louisiana National Guard. And it didn't take long for the stench of human waste to drive many people outside.

Chief Swain said the Guard supplied water and food - two military rations a day. But despair mounted once people began lining up on Wednesday for buses expected early the next day, only to find them mysteriously delayed.

Chief Swain and Colonel Ebbert said in interviews that the first buses arranged by FEMA were diverted elsewhere, and it took several more hours to begin the evacuation. By Friday, the food and the water had run out. Violence also broke out. One Guard soldier was wounded by gunfire and the police confirmed there were attempts to sexually assault at least one woman and a young child, Chief Swain said.

And even though there were clinics at the stadium, Chief Swain said, "Quite a few of the people died during the course of their time here."

By the time the last buses arrived on Saturday, he said, some children were so dehydrated that guardsmen had to carry them out, and several adults died while walking to the buses. State officials said yesterday that a total of 10 people died in the Superdome.

"I'm very angry that we couldn't get the resources we needed to save lives," Chief Swain said. "I was watching people die."

Mayor Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, P. Edwin Compass III, said in interviews that they believe murders occurred in the Superdome and in the convention center, where the city also started sending people on Tuesday. But at the convention center, the violence was even more pervasive.

"The biggest problem was that there wasn't enough security," said Capt. Winn, the head of the police SWAT team. "The only way I can describe it is as a completely lawless situation."

While those entering the Superdome had been searched for weapons, there was no time to take similar precautions at the convention center, which took in a volatile mix of poor residents, well-to-do hotel guests and hospital workers and patients. Gunfire became so routine that large SWAT teams had to storm the place nearly every night.

Capt. Winn said armed groups of 15 to 25 men terrorized the others, stealing cash and jewelry. He said policemen patrolling the center told him that a number of women had been dragged off by groups of men and gang-raped - and that murders were occurring.

"We had a situation where the lambs were trapped with the lions," Mr. Compass said. "And we essentially had to become the lion tamers."

Capt. Winn said the armed groups even sealed the police out of two of the center's six halls, forcing the SWAT team to retake the territory.

But the police were at a disadvantage: they could not fire into the crowds in the dimly lit facility. So after they saw muzzle flashes, they would rush toward them, searching with flashlights for anyone with a gun.

Meanwhile, those nearby "would be running for their lives," Capt. Winn said. "Or they would lie down on the ground in the fetal position."

And when the SWAT team caught some of the culprits, there was not much it could do. The jails were also flooded, and no temporary holding cells had been set up yet. "We'd take them into another hall and hope they didn't make it back," Capt. Winn said.

One night, Capt. Winn said, the police department even came close to abandoning the convention halls - and giving up on the 15,000 there. He said a captain in charge of the regular police was preparing to evacuate the regular police officers by helicopter when 100 guardsmen rushed over to help restore order.

Before the last people were evacuated that Saturday, several bodies were dumped near a door, and two or three babies died of dehydration, emergency medics have said. State officials said yesterday that 24 people died either inside or just outside the convention center.

The state officials said they did not have any information about how many of those deaths may have been murders. Capt. Winn said that when his team made a final sweep of the building last Monday, it found three bodies, including one with multiple stab wounds.

Capt. Winn said four of his men quit amid the horror. Other police officials said that nearly 10 regular officers stationed at the Superdome and 15 to 20 at the convention center also quit, along with several hundred other police officers across the city.

But, Capt. Winn said, most of the city's police officers were "busting their asses" and hung in heroically. Of the terror and lawlessness, he added, "I just didn't expect for it to explode the way it did."

 

Divided Responsibilities

As the city become paralyzed both by water and by lawlessness, so did the response by government. The fractured division of responsibility - Governor Blanco controlled state agencies and the National Guard, Mayor Nagin directed city workers and Mr. Brown, the head of FEMA, served as the point man for the federal government - meant no one person was in charge. Americans watching on television saw the often-haggard governor, the voluble mayor and the usually upbeat FEMA chief appear at competing daily news briefings and interviews.

The power-sharing arrangement was by design, and as the days wore on, it would prove disastrous. Under the Bush administration, FEMA redefined its role, offering assistance but remaining subordinate to state and local governments. "Our typical role is to work with the state in support of local and state agencies," said David Passey, a FEMA spokesman.

With Hurricane Katrina, that meant the agency most experienced in dealing with disasters and with access to the greatest resources followed, rather than led.

FEMA's deference was frustrating. Rather than initiate relief efforts - buses, food, troops, diesel fuel, rescue boats - the agency waited for specific requests from state and local officials. "When you go to war you don't have time to ask for each round of ammunition that you need," complained Colonel Ebbert, the city's emergency operations director.

Telephone and cellphone service died, and throughout the crisis the state's special emergency communications system was either overloaded or knocked out. As a result, officials were unable to fully inventory the damage or clearly identify the assistance they required from the federal government. "If you do not know what your needs are, I can't request to FEMA what I need," said Colonel Doran, of the state office of homeland security.

To President Bush, Governor Blanco directed an ill-defined but urgent appeal.

"I need everything you've got," the governor said she told the president on Monday. "I am going to need all the help you can send me."

"We went from early morning to late night, day after day, after day, after day. Trying to make critical decisions," Ms. Blanco said in an interview last week. "Trying to get product in, resources, where does the food come from. Learning the supply network."

She said she didn't always know what to request. "Do we stop and think about it?" she asked. "We just stop and think about help."

FEMA attributed some of the delay to miscommunications in an overwhelming event. "There was a significant amount of discussions between the parties and likely some confusion about what was requested and what was needed," said Mr. Knocke, the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

As New Orleans descended into near-anarchy, the White House considered sending active-duty troops to impose order. The Pentagon was not eager to have combat troops take on a domestic lawkeeping role. "The way it's arranged under our Constitution," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted at a news briefing last week, "state and local officials are the first responders."

Pentagon, White House and Justice officials debated for two days whether the president should seize control of the relief mission from Governor Blanco. But they worried about the political fallout of stepping on the state's authority, according to the officials involved in the discussions. They ultimately rejected the idea and instead decided to try to speed the arrival of National Guard forces, including many trained as military police.

Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, explained that decision in an interview this week. "Could we have physically moved combat forces into an American city, without the governor's consent, for purposes of using those forces - untrained at that point in law enforcement - for law enforcement duties? Yes."

But, he asked, "Would you have wanted that on your conscience?"

For some of those on the ground, those discussions in Washington seemed remote. Before the city calmed down six days after the storm, both Mayor Nagin and Colonel Ebbert lashed out. Governor Blanco almost mocked the words of assurance federal relief officials had offered. "It was like, 'they are coming, they are coming, they are coming, they are coming,' " she said in an interview. "It was all in route. Everything was in motion."

 

'Stuck in Atlanta'

The heart-rending pictures broadcast from the Gulf Coast drew offers of every possible kind of help. But FEMA found itself accused repeatedly of putting bureaucratic niceties ahead of getting aid to those who desperately needed it.

Hundreds of firefighters, who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.

"On the news every night you hear, 'How come everybody forgot us?' " said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa., told The Dallas Morning News. "We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer."

Ms. Rule, the FEMA spokeswoman, said there was no urgency for the firefighters to arrive because they were primarily going to do community relations work, not rescue.

William D. Vines, a former mayor of Fort Smith, Ark., helped deliver food and water to areas hit by the hurricane. But he said FEMA halted two trailer trucks carrying thousands of bottles of water to Camp Beauregard, near Alexandria, La., a staging area for the distribution of supplies.

"FEMA would not let the trucks unload," Mr. Vines said in an interview. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road about 10 miles from Camp Beauregard. FEMA said we had to have a 'tasker number.' What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork, and it's ridiculous."

Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, who interceded on behalf of Mr. Vines, said, "All our Congressional offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA. Governors' offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA." When the state of Arkansas repeatedly offered to send buses and planes to evacuate people displaced by flooding, she said, "they were told they could not go. I don't really know why."

On Aug. 31, Sheriff Edmund M. Sexton, Sr., of Tuscaloosa County, Ala., and president of the National Sheriffs' Association, sent out an alert urging members to pitch in.

"Folks were held up two, three days while they were working on the paperwork," he said.

Some sheriffs refused to wait. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, Sheriff Warren C. Evans got a call from Mr. Sexton on Sept. 1 The next day, he led a convoy of six tractor-trailers, three rental trucks and 33 deputies, despite public pleas from Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm to wait for formal requests.

"I could look at CNN and see people dying, and I couldn't in good conscience wait for a coordinated response," he said. He dropped off food, water and medical supplies in Mobile and Gonzales, La., where a sheriffs' task force directed him to the French Quarter. By Saturday, Sept. 3, the Michigan team was conducting search and rescue missions.

"We lost thousands of lives that could have been saved," Sheriff Evans said.

Mr. Knocke said the Department of Homeland Security could not yet respond to complaints that red tape slowed relief.

"It is testament to the generosity of the American people - a lot of people wanted to contribute," Mr. Knocke said. "But there is not really any way of knowing at this time if or whether individual offers were plugged into the response and recovery operation."

 

Response to Sept. 11

An irony of the much-criticized federal hurricane response is that it is being overseen by a new cabinet department created because of perceived shortcomings in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And it is governed by a new plan the Department of Homeland Security unveiled in January with considerable fanfare.

The National Response Plan set out a lofty goal in its preface: "The end result is vastly improved coordination among federal, state, local and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of incident management."

The evidence of the initial response to Hurricane Katrina raised doubts about whether the plan had, in fact, improved coordination. Mr. Knocke, the homeland security spokesman, said the department realizes it must learn from its mistakes, and the department's inspector general has been given $15 million in the emergency supplemental appropriated by Congress to study the flawed rescue and recovery operation.

"There is going to be enough blame to go around at all levels," he said. "We are going to be our toughest critics."

 

Jason DeParle, Robert Pear, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.

    Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11response.html

 

 

 

 

 

Some signs of hope

in New Orleans

 

Sun Sep 11, 2005
2:23 AM ET
Reuters
By Jason Webb
and Kieran Murray

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - All the dead from Hurricane Katrina had not yet been recovered, and staggering destruction littered block after block of New Orleans, but there were signs of hope in and around the nearly empty city on Sunday.

President George W. Bush, hit by criticism for his administration's response to the storm, prepared to return to the devastated region later in the day for another visit, his third and longest. It will include an overnight stay with stops in both Louisiana and Mississippi.

There was good news from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which said it will take half the time originally thought to pump the city dry -- 40 days not 80. Forty-seven pumps were pulling water poisoned with chemicals, gasoline and sewage out of the historic below-sea level city,

New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport will reopen to passenger traffic on Tuesday and was already open for freight traffic. Officials in Plaquemines Parish south of the city said they would lift a mandatory evacuation order for some areas on Sunday.

Most importantly, the fear of a death toll numbering in the thousands in New Orleans that some officials predicted had not come true -- though the search for victims was far from over.

"We'll be well. We can do it," remarked Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. "I see signs of hope all around us. Lights are coming on, and things are happening all around."

A Time Magazine poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe New Orleans should be rebuilt, with a better levee system to protect against another flooding catastrophe like the one caused by the storm that came ashore August 29.

 

MAYOR MOVES OUT

But the city where 450,000 once lived faced long-term disruption. Some may never return to ruined homes. The New Orleans Times Picayune reported on Saturday that Mayor Ray Nagin had bought a house in Dallas and moved his family there. Nagin said he would return to New Orleans and make occasional visits to his family.

By boat and on foot, firefighters, soldiers and trained mortuary workers pried open doors and cut their way through walls across the city. They found bodies and even survivors, still clinging to life where they had been trapped since the storm smashed levees that had held back Lake Pontchartrain.

In Louisiana, the official death toll stood at 154. Mississippi, the other hardest hit state, had 211 confirmed killed. There were also fatalities, though much lower numbers, in Alabama and Florida.

"I thought there would be thousands of dead but it seems it's a lot less," said Staff Sgt. Jason Geranen of the 82nd Airborne Division following a search on Saturday.

"We keep going because we are still finding some survivors. There was one yesterday, another one today," Perry Peake, who heads a search and rescue team, said Saturday. "You can't just leave people behind."

 

SOME DEFIANT

Some still defied orders to evacuate, including one Bourbon Street bar that has refused to close. Though the mayor had ordered everyone to leave, police and soldiers were in general using persuasion instead of force in most cases, and officials have said forcible evictions would be a last resort.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, attacked by civic officials and politicians for underestimating a disaster that eventually uprooted a million people, said it had distributed $688 million in aid to displaced families in "record time."

The money went to nearly 268,000 households in Louisiana, 52,000 in Mississippi and 12,000 in Alabama, it said.

The agency's much criticized chief, Michael Brown, was recalled to Washington and relieved of direct supervision of the hurricane recovery efforts.

Bush also suffered from the political fall-out.

A Newsweek poll found his approval rating at its lowest -- 38 percent. The survey found 53 percent of Americans no longer trusted him to make correct decisions in a foreign or domestic crisis, compared to 45 percent who did.

Some federal officials have put Katrina's cost at between $100 billion and $200 billion. Congress has approved $62.3 billion for hurricane relief sought by Bush, who said further requests will come.

There has been an outpouring of private donations, from across the United States and abroad. The American Red Cross, which has 36,000 volunteers in the field, said it had launched a drive to recruit 40,000 more volunteers.

The (U.S.) State Department said there had been no confirmed deaths of foreign nationals in the coastal area ravaged by the storm though efforts are still under way to account for those who have not been heard from.

Some signs of hope in New Orleans, R, 11.9.2005,
http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-11T062228Z_01_KNE077648_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Disarray Marked the Path

From Hurricane to Anarchy

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON,
CHRISTOPHER DREW,
SCOTT SHANE
and DAVID ROHDE

 

The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.

Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.

They were an obvious linchpin for evacuating a city where nearly 100,000 people had no cars. Yet the federal state and local officials who had failed to round up buses in advance were now in a frantic hunt. It would be two more days before they found enough buses to empty the shelters.

The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11 attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged local and state authorities, interviews with dozens of officials show.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials expected the state and city to direct their own efforts and ask for help as needed. Leaders in Louisiana and New Orleans, though, were so overwhelmed by the scale of the storm that they were not only unable to manage the crisis, but they were not always exactly sure what they needed. While local officials assumed that Washington would provide rapid and massive aid, federal officials, weighing legalities and logistics, proceeded at a deliberate pace.

Russ Knocke, press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said that any detailed examination of the response to Katrina's assault will uncover shortcomings by many parties. "I don't believe there is one critical error," he said. "They are going to be some missteps that were made by everyone involved."

FEMA appears to have underestimated the storm, despite an extraordinary warning from the National Hurricane Center that it would cause "human suffering incredible by modern standards." The agency dispatched only 7 of its 28 urban search and rescue teams to the area before the storm hit and sent no workers at all into New Orleans until after Katrina passed on Aug. 29, a Monday.

On Tuesday, a FEMA official who had just flown over the ravaged city by helicopter seemed to have trouble conveying to his bosses the degree of destruction, according to a New Orleans city councilwoman.

"He got on the phone to Washington, and I heard him say, 'You've got to understand how serious this is, and this is not what they're telling me, this is what I saw myself,' " the councilwoman, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, recalled the FEMA official saying.

State and federal officials had spent two years working on a disaster plan to prepare for a massive storm, but it was incomplete and had failed to deal with two issues that proved most critical: transporting evacuees and imposing law and order.

The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to Iraq, was hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20 vehicles that could have carried soldiers through the watery streets and had to abandon its most advanced communications equipment, Guard officials said.

Partly because of the shortage of troops, violence raged inside the New Orleans convention center, which interviews show was even worse than previously described. Police SWAT team members found themselves plunging into the darkness, guided by the muzzle flashes of thugs' handguns, said Capt. Jeffrey Winn.

"In 20 years as a cop, doing mostly tactical work, I have never seen anything like it," said Captain Winn. Three of his officers quit, he said, and another simply disappeared.

 

A National Disaster

Oliver Thomas, the New Orleans City Council president, expressed a view shared by many in city and state government: that a national disaster requires a national response.

"Everybody's trying to look at it like the City of New Orleans messed up," Mr. Thomas said in an interview. "But you mean to tell me that in the richest nation in the world, people really expected a little town with less than 500,000 people to handle a disaster like this? That's ludicrous to even think that."

Andrew Kopplin, Governor Blanco's chief of staff, took a similar position. "This was a bigger natural disaster than any state could handle by itself, let alone a small state and a relatively poor one," Mr. Kopplin said.

Federal officials seem to have belatedly come to the same conclusion. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said future "ultra-catastrophes" like Katrina would require a more aggressive federal role. And Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whom President Bush had publicly praised a week earlier for doing "a heck of a job," was pushed aside on Friday, replaced by a take-charge admiral.

Richard A. Falkenrath, a former homeland security adviser in the Bush White House, said the chief federal failure was not anticipating that the city and state would be so compromised. He said the response exposed "false advertising" about how the government has been transformed four years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"Frankly, I wasn't surprised that it went the way it did," Mr. Falkenrath said.

At mid-afternoon on that Monday, a few hours after Katrina made landfall, state and federal leaders appeared together at a press conference in Baton Rouge in a display of solidarity.

Governor Blanco lavished her gratitude on Mr. Brown, the FEMA chief.

"Director Brown," she said, "I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated - these are the times that really count - to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need." Senator Mary L. Landrieu pitched in: "We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time."

Mr. Brown replied in the same spirit: "What I've seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls."

At that point, New Orleans seemed to have been spared the worst of the storm, although some areas were already being flooded through breaches in levees. But when widespread flooding forced the city into crisis, Monday's confidence crumbled, exposing serious weaknesses in the machinery of emergency services.

 

A Focus on Terrorism

Questions had been raised about FEMA, which had been swallowed by the Department of Homeland Security, established after 9/11. Its critics complained it focused too much on terrorism, hurting preparations for natural disasters, and that it had become politicized. Mr. Brown is a lawyer who came to the agency with political connections but little emergency management experience. That's also true of Patrick J. Rhode, the chief of staff at FEMA, who was deputy director of advance operations for the Bush campaign and the Bush White House.

Scott R. Morris, who was deputy chief of staff at FEMA and is now director of its recovery office on Florida, had worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Tex., as a media strategist for the Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. And David I. Maurstad was the Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska before he became director of FEMA's regional office in Denver and then a senior official at the agency's headquarters.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA employees, had written to Congress in June 2004, complaining, "Seasoned staff members are being pushed aside to make room for inexperienced novices and contractors."

In addition, the government's emphasis on terrorism had affected the type of equipment states could buy with federal emergency preparedness money, said Trina R. Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association, which represents state officials.

Even so, the prospect of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was a FEMA priority. Numerous drills and studies had been undertaken to prepare a response. In 2002, Joe M. Allbaugh, then the FEMA director, said: "Catastrophic disasters are best defined in that they totally outstrip local and state resources, which is why the federal government needs to play a role. There are a half-dozen or so contingencies around the nation that cause me great concern, and one of them is right there in your backyard."

Federal officials vowed to work with local authorities to improve the hurricane response, but the plan for Louisiana was not finished when Katrina hit. State officials said it did not yet address transportation or crime control, two issues which proved crucial. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans since 2003, said he never spoke with FEMA about the state disaster blueprint. New Orleans had its own plan.

At first glance, Annex I of the "City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" is reassuring. Forty-one pages of matter-of fact prose outline a seemingly exhaustive list of hurricane evacuation procedures, including a "mobile command center" that could replace a disabled city hall and schools designated as shelters.

New Orleans had used $18 million in federal funding since 2002 to stage exercises, train for emergencies and build relay towers to improve emergency communications. After years of delay, a new $16 million command center was to be completed by 2007. There was talk of upgrading emergency power and water supplies at the Superdome, the city's emergency shelter of "last resort," as part of a new deal with the tenants - the New Orleans Saints.

But the city's plan said that about 100,000 residents "do not have means of personal transportation" to evacuate, and there are few details on how they would be sheltered.

 

No Strict Standards

Although the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged states and cities to file emergency preparedness strategies it has not set strict standards for evacuation plans.

"There is very loose requirement in terms of when it gets done and what the quality is," said Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security. "There is not a lot of urgency."

He said the New Orleans experience illustrates that disaster response was not coordinated between levels of government, which was part of the agenda Washington outlined in its National Response Plan issued after the Sept. 11 attacks.

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin largely followed the city plan, eventually ordering the city's first-ever mandatory evacuation. Although 80 percent of New Orleans' population left, as many as 100,000 people remained.

Mr. Ebbert decided to make the Superdome the city's lone shelter, assuming the city would only have to shelter people in the arena for 48 hours, until the storm passed or the federal government came and rescued people.

As early as Friday, Aug. 26, as Katrina moved across the Gulf of Mexico, officials in the watch center at FEMA headquarters in Washington discussed the need for buses.

Someone said, "We should be getting buses and getting people out of there," recalled Leo V. Bosner, an emergency management specialist with 26 years at FEMA and president of an employees' union. Others nodded in agreement, he said.

"We could all see it coming, like a guided missile," Mr. Bosner said of the storm. "We, as staff members at the agency, felt helpless. We knew that major steps needed to be taken fast, but, for whatever reasons, they were not taken."

 

Drivers Afraid

When the water rose, the state began scrambling to find buses. Officials pleaded with various parishes across the state for school buses. But by Tuesday, Aug. 30, as news reports of looting and violence appeared, local officials began resisting.

Governor Blanco said the bus drivers, many of them women, "got afraid to drive. So then we looked for somebody of authority to drive the school buses."

FEMA offered to help, the governor said, by requisitioning buses. Greyhound Lines began sending buses into New Orleans within two hours of getting FEMA approval on Wednesday, Aug. 31, said Anna Folmnsbee, a Greyhound spokeswoman. But the slow pace and reports of desperation and violence at the Superdome led to the governor's frustrated appeal in the state emergency center on Wednesday night.

She eventually signed an executive order that required parishes to turn over their buses, said Colonel William J. Doran III, operations director for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"Just the logistics of wrangling up enough buses to get the people out of the dome took us three days," Colonel Doran said. A separate transportation problem arose for nursing homes. In some cases, delays proved deadly.

State regulations require nursing homes to have detailed evacuation plans and signed evacuation contracts with private transportation companies, according to Louisiana officials.

Yet 70 percent of the New Orleans area's 53 nursing homes were not evacuated before the hurricane struck Monday morning, according to the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. This week, searchers discovered 32 bodies in one nursing home in Chalmette, a community just outside New Orleans.

Mark Cartwright, a member of the nursing home association's emergency preparedness committee, said 3,400 patients were safely evacuated from the city. An unknown number of patients died awaiting evacuation or during evacuation.

"I've heard stories," Mr. Cartwright said. "Because rescuers didn't come, people were succumbing to the heat." Mr. Cartwright said some nursing home managers ignored the mayor's mandatory evacuation order, choosing to keep their frail patients in place and wait out the storm. During previous hurricane evacuations, nursing home managers were criticized after elderly patients perished while sitting on buses snarled in massive traffic jams.

 

Symbols of Despair

The confluence of these planning failures and the levee breaks helped turn two of the most visible features of the New Orleans skyline - the Superdome and the mile-long convention center - into deathtraps and symbols of the city's despair.

At the Superdome, the initial calm turned to fear as a chunk of the white roof ripped away in the wind, dropping debris on the Saints' fleur-de-lis logo on the 50-yard-line. The electricity was knocked out, leaving only dim lights inside the windowless building. The dome quickly became a giant sauna, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Two-thirds of the 24,000 people huddled inside were women, children or elderly, and many were infirm, said Lonnie C. Swain, an assistant police superintendent overseeing the 90 policemen who patrolled the facility with 300 troops from the Louisiana National Guard. And it didn't take long for the stench of human waste to drive many people outside.

Chief Swain said the Guard supplied water and food - two military rations a day. But despair mounted once people began lining up on Wednesday for buses expected early the next day, only to find them mysteriously delayed.

Chief Swain and Colonel Ebbert said in interviews that the first buses arranged by FEMA were diverted elsewhere, and it took several more hours to begin the evacuation. By Friday, the food and the water had run out. Violence also broke out. One Guard soldier was wounded by gunfire and the police confirmed there were attempts to sexually assault at least one woman and a young child, Chief Swain said.

And even though there were clinics at the stadium, Chief Swain said, "Quite a few of the people died during the course of their time here."

By the time the last buses arrived on Saturday, he said, some children were so dehydrated that Guardsmen had to carry them out, and several adults died while walking to the buses. State officials said Saturday that a total of 10 people died in the Superdome.

"I'm very angry that we couldn't get the resources we needed to save lives," Chief Swain said. "I was watching people die."

Mayor Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, P. Edwin Compass III, said in interviews that they believe murders occurred in the Superdome and in the Convention Center, where the city also started sending people on Tuesday. But at the convention center, the violence was even more pervasive.

"The biggest problem was that there wasn't enough security," said Capt. Winn, the head of the police SWAT team. "The only way I can describe it is as a completely lawless situation."

While those entering the Superdome had been searched for weapons, there was no time to take similar precautions at the convention center, which took in a volatile mix of poor residents, well-to-do hotel guests and hospital workers and patients. Gunfire became so routine that large SWAT teams had to storm the place nearly every night.

Capt. Winn said armed groups of 15 to 25 men terrorized the others, stealing cash and jewelry. He said policemen patrolling the center told him that a number of women had been dragged off by groups of men and gang-raped - and that murders were occurring.

 

Lambs 'With the Lions'

"We had a situation where the lambs were trapped with the lions," Mr. Compass said. "And we essentially had to become the lion tamers."

Capt. Winn said the armed groups even sealed the police out of two of the center's six halls, forcing the SWAT team to retake the territory.

But the police were at a disadvantage: they could not fire into the crowds in the hot and dimly lit facility. So after they saw muzzle flashes, they would rush toward them, searching with flashlights for anyone with a gun.

Meanwhile, those nearby "would be running for their lives," Capt. Winn said. "Or they would lie down on the ground in the fetal position."

And when the SWAT team caught some of the culprits, there was not much it could do. The jails were also flooded, and no temporary pens had been set up yet.

"We'd take them into another hall and hope they didn't make it back," Capt. Winn said.

One night, Capt. Winn said, the police department even came close to abandoning the convention halls - and giving up on the 15,000 there. He said a captain in charge of the regular police was preparing to evacuate the regular police by helicopter when 100 Guardsmen rushed over to help restore order.

Before the last people were evacuated that Saturday, several bodies were dumped near a door, and two or three babies died of dehydration, emergency medics have said. State officials said Saturday that 24 people died either inside or just outside the convention center.

The state officials said they did not have any information about how many of those deaths may have been murders. Capt. Winn said that when his team made a final sweep of the building last Monday, it found three bodies, including one with multiple stab wounds.

Capt. Winn said four of his men quit amid the horror. Other police officials said that nearly 10 regular officers stationed at the Superdome and 15 to 20 at the convention center also quit, along with several hundred other policemen across the city.

But, Capt. Winn said, most of the city's policemen were "busting their asses" and hung in heroically. Of the terror and lawlessness, he added, "I just didn't expect for it to explode the way it did."

As the city become paralyzed both by water and by lawlessness, so did the response by government. The fractured division of responsibility - Gov. Blanco controlled state agencies and the National Guard, Mayor Nagin directed city workers and Mr. Brown, the head of FEMA, served as the point man for the federal government - meant no one person was in charge. Americans watching on television saw the often-haggard governor, the voluble mayor and the usually upbeat FEMA chief appear at competing daily press briefings and interviews.

 

Power-Sharing by Design

The power-sharing arrangement was by design, and as the days wore on, it would prove disastrous. Under the Bush administration, FEMA redefined its role, offering assistance but remaining subordinate to state and local governments. "Our typical role is to work with the state in support of local and state agencies," said David Passey, a FEMA spokesman.

With Katrina, that meant the agency most experienced in dealing with disasters and with access to the greatest resources followed, rather than led.

FEMA's deference was frustrating. Rather than initiate relief efforts - buses, food, troops, diesel fuel, rescue boats - the agency waited for specific requests from state and local officials. "When you go to war you don't have time to ask for each round of ammunition that you need," complained Mr. Ebbert, the city's emergency operation director.

With communications out and much of the city inaccessible, officials couldn't always be precise. "If you do not know what your needs are, I can't request to FEMA what I need," said Lt. Col. William J. Doran III, of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

To President Bush, Governor Blanco directed an ill-defined but urgent appeal.

"I need everything you've got," the governor said she told the president on Monday. "I am going to need all the help you can send me."

Ms. Blanco, in an interview this week, said she was frantic as conditions grew more perilous. "We went from early morning to late night, day after day, after day, after day. Trying to make critical decisions," she said. "Trying to get product in, resources, where does the food come from. Learning the supply network."

She said she didn't always know exactly what to request. "Do we stop and think about it?" she asked. " We just stop and think about help."

FEMA's assistance was crucial, but its pace seemed slow. "Once it moves, it is big," said Colonel Doran of the agency. "But until they get moving, it takes a while to get them ramped up."

The disaster agency attributed some of the delay to miscommunications in an overwhelming event. "There was a significant amount of discussions between the parties and likely some confusion about what was requested and what was needed," said Mr. Knocke, the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security..

As New Orleans descended into near-anarchy, the White House considered sending active-duty troops to impose order. The Pentagon was not eager to have combat troops take on a domestic lawkeeping role. "The way it's arranged under our constitution," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted at a press briefing this week, "state and local officials are the first responders."

Pentagon, White House and Justice officials debated for two days whether the president should seize control of the relief mission from Governor Blanco. But they worried about the political fallout of stepping on the state's authority, according to the officials involved in the discussions. In the end, they rejected the idea and instead decided to try to speed the arrival of National Guard forces, including many trained as military police.

Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, explained that decision in an interview this week. "Could we have physically have moved combat forces into an American city, without the governor's consent, for purposes of using those forces - untrained at that point in law enforcement - for law enforcement duties? Yes."

But, he asked, "Would you have wanted that on your conscience?"

For some of those on the ground, those discussions in Washington seemed remote. Before the city calmed down six days after the storm, both Mayor Nagin and Mr. Ebbert lashed out. Governor Blanco almost mocked the words of assurance federal relief officials had offered. "It was like they are coming, they are coming, they are coming, they are coming," she said in an interview. "It was all in route. Everything was in motion." 'Stuck in Atlanta'

The heart-rending pictures broadcast from the gulf coast drew offers of every possible kind of help. But FEMA found itself accused repeatedly of putting bureaucratic niceties ahead of getting aid to those who desperately needed it.

Hundreds of firefighters , who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.

"On the news every night you hear, 'How come everybody forgot us?'" said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa., told The Dallas Morning News. "We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer."

William D. Vines, a former mayor of Fort Smith, Ark., helped deliver food and water to areas hit by the hurricane. But he said FEMA halted two trailer trucks carrying thousands of bottles of water to Camp Beauregard, near Alexandria, La., a staging area for the distribution of supplies.

"FEMA would not let the trucks unload," Mr. Vines said in an interview. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road about 10 miles from Camp Beauregard. FEMA said we had to have a 'tasker number.' What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork, and it's ridiculous."

Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, who interceded on behalf of Mr. Vines, said "All our Congressional offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA. Governors' offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA. " When the state of Arkansas repeatedly offered to send buses and planes to evacuate people displaced by flooding, "they were told they could not go. I don't really know why."

On Aug. 31, Sheriff Edmund M. Sexton, Sr., the sheriff of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama and president of the National Sheriffs' Association, sent out an alert urging members to pitch in.

"Folks were held up two, three days while they were working on the paperwork," he said.

Some sheriffs refused to wait. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, Sheriff Warren C. Evans got a call from Mr. Sexton on Sept.1 The next day, he led a convoy of six tractor-trailers, three rental trucks, and 33 deputies, despite public pleas from Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm to wait for formal requests.

"I could look at CNN and see people dying, and I couldn't in good conscience wait for a coordinated response," he said. He dropped off food, water, and medical supplies in Mobile and Gonzales, La., where a sheriffs' task force directed him to the French Quarter. By Saturday, Sept. 3, the Michigan team was conducting search and rescue missions. "We lost thousands of lives that could have been saved."

"It testament to the generosity of the American people - a lot of people wanted to contribute," Mr. Knocke said. "But there is not really any way of knowing at this time if or how localized offers were plugged into the response and recovery operation."

Lofty Goals An irony of the much-criticized federal hurricane response is that it is being overseen by a new cabinet department created in response to perceived shortcomings in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And it is governed by a new plan the Department of Homeland Security unveiled in December with considerable fanfare.

The National Response Plan set out a lofty goal in its preface: "The end result is vastly improved coordination among federal, state, local and tribal organization to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of incident management."

 

Jason DeParle, Robert Pear, James Risen and Thom Shanker
contributed reportingfor this article.

Disarray Marked the Path From Hurricane to Anarchy, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11response.html

 

 

 

 

 

FEMA Chief Was Recalled

After High-Level Meeting

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 - On Wednesday afternoon, at a contentious briefing in the White House press room, President Bush's top spokesman publicly but cautiously praised the work of Michael D. Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When pressed, the spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Mr. Bush stood by his previous statement that Mr. Brown had been doing "a heck of a job."

But it fact, just hours before, in a meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Brown's fate had been all but sealed. Michael Chertoff, the onetime judge who has told friends he was shocked by the state of the Department of Homeland Security, which he inherited earlier this year, told Mr. Bush and the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., that he wanted to remove Mr. Brown from the day-to-day management of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, although he would remain the head of FEMA.

The assignments of officials below cabinet level do not usually require consultation with the president, but these were highly unusual circumstances. The day after the meeting, Vice President Dick Cheney toured the region and was briefed by Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, the man who would replace Mr. Brown in overseeing the relief effort.

Mr. Cheney's role in the final decision to remove Mr. Brown is unclear. On Saturday in Austin, Tex., Mr. Cheney was asked whether he had recommended Mr. Brown's removal. Mr. Cheney characteristically would not reveal his advice. He said: "Mike Chertoff made the decisions. And certainly I support it."

At the Oval Office meeting, the president also expressed support for Mr. Chertoff, said an aide, who paraphrased Mr. Bush as saying, "I will support you in whatever decision you make." On Saturday, several administration officials said it was unclear to them whether Mr. Bush's response had been intended to make it clear to Mr. Chertoff that he had finally understood the president's desires or whether the president was really leaving the decision to the cabinet secretary responsible for the relief effort.

Either way, how the White House moved, in a matter of days, from the president's praise of a man he nicknamed "Brownie" to a rare public reassignment explains much about fears within the administration that its delayed response to the disaster could do lasting damage to both Mr. Bush's power and his legacy. But more important to some members of the administration, it dented the administration's aura of competence.

Mr. Bush, his aides acknowledge, is loath to fire members of his administration or to take public actions that are tantamount to an admission of a major mistake. But the hurricane was different, they say: the delayed response was playing out every day on television, and Mr. Brown, fairly or unfairly, seemed unaware of crucial events, particularly the scenes of chaos and death in the New Orleans convention center. The only real analogy to his removal, they say, was Mr. Bush's decision in the spring of 2003 to push aside Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who had been sent to Iraq immediately after fighting ended to begin the reconstruction process that proved ill-fated. Within a month, he had been replaced by L. Paul Bremer III and by June 2003, he had left his post altogether.

But Mr. Brown did not even have a month. By the time Mr. Chertoff stepped into the Oval Office that morning, Mr. Bush had received many complaints about the federal response.

Still, Mr. McClellan was left in the awkward position of having to publicly reiterate praise for Mr. Brown's efforts - he frequently spoke of the president's appreciation for all that FEMA was doing - even while he had to signal that Mr. Bush was still "not satisfied." It was a balancing act that could not last.

But until the Oval Office meeting on Wednesday morning, there was no plan. One emerged, officials said, around the time Vice Adm. Allen arrived in Louisiana. He had been sent to act as Mr. Brown's special deputy early in the week because of his experience in the recovery from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It became clear, officials said, that Admiral Allen was adept at getting the cogs of the federal government and the military moving. When Vice President Cheney visited the region with Mr. Chertoff, it was Admiral Allen who impressed the visitors.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat, said Admiral Allen "gave a comprehensive report to Vice President Cheney and me and demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of our situation."

"I welcome him," Governor Blanco added, "and know that we must have a long-term relationship in order to alleviate the suffering and frustration of our people."

By Thursday night, administration officials say, Mr. Chertoff had called Mr. Card to say a final decision had been made: Mr. Brown would be sent back to Washington, and Admiral Allen would be put in charge of the relief effort. Mr. Card wasted no time in informing the president. "This was well under way before Cheney took his trip," one official said. "But the Cheney trip pushed it along."

Mr. Brown's removal was welcomed by many Republicans, perhaps in hopes that it would enable Mr. Bush's allies to argue that eventually the White House had gotten the message. Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said that Mr. Brown had been acting "like a private instead of a general" and that FEMA had shown itself to be "overwhelmed, undermanned and not capable of doing its job."

As for his plans, Mr. Brown, in an interview with The Associated Press, said: "I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep. And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims."

 

Richard W. Stevenson contributed reporting for this article.

    FEMA Chief Was Recalled After High-Level Meeting, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11fema.html

 

 

 

 

 

As Recovery Starts,

Some Lights Go On,

Some Mail Is Delivered

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By WILLIAM YARDLEY
and MICHAEL LUO

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 10 - After nearly two weeks of unrelenting crisis, workers here and across the battered Gulf Coast region began making small but meaningful strides on Saturday in reconnecting power and other utilities, rebuilding highways, delivering mail and restoring a sense of order.

About 700 city residents have been allowed to return temporarily to their homes to check on their property and retrieve belongings in largely affluent neighborhoods like Lakeview on the northern edge of the city along Lake Pontchartrain and in the Lower Garden District, flush along the crescent that the Mississippi River forms around this city.

At City Hall, running water had been restored and one engineer said he expected the building to have power soon. Newly hired workers carted city property records from the basement, saying they would be refrigerated to prevent mold from damaging them.

In Baton Rouge, state health officials revised the death toll to 154, from 118 a few days earlier, but said it would not be the final count. They said that caution, accuracy and respect were their goals and that they would not work hastily.

"I'm not going to make estimates," said Melissa Walker, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital Services. "These are individuals who perished in a storm, and each one is very important."

But even as the toll grows, officials said on Friday that their first systematic sweep of the city had found far fewer bodies than expected, and that the number of dead would probably be well below the 10,000 that some officials had initially feared.

The expanding relief effort continued to have complications. The American Red Cross, nearing exhaustion from the largest domestic disaster relief operation in its history, issued an urgent appeal for 40,000 new volunteers to relieve those who have been serving since Hurricane Katrina hit.

John H. Degnan, a spokesman for the private agency, said that 36,000 volunteers are now operating 675 shelters in 23 states that have taken in more than 160,000 storm evacuees. He said many of them have been away from home for two weeks and needed to be replaced. He said the Red Cross plea for new volunteers was the largest it had ever made.

"This is unprecedented in terms of its impact and scope and in fact is responding to a disaster that is unprecedented in the United States," Mr. Degnan said.

He said that the new volunteers would receive several hours of training and that many would be sent to the Gulf Coast to staff the many shelters in the region.

Foreign governments and overseas private organizations have pledged more than $700 million in cash and material assistance to storm victims, including two tons of disposable diapers from South Korea, according to a State Department official.

Joseph G. Sullivan, the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, is running a small State Department office in Baton Rouge to coordinate aid from foreign donors and to locate foreign citizens displaced by the storm. He said that several hundred foreign visitors remain unaccounted for, but that there have been no confirmed deaths.

Ambassador Sullivan said 115 countries and 12 international organizations have pledged aid to the United States. He said an elderly woman in Lithuania, grateful for past American assistance to her country, sent her life savings of 1,000 Euros.

Across the Gulf Coast region, efforts to restore basic infrastructure continued, if haltingly. The Postal Service said that it had resumed limited mail service in some areas affected by the storm.

In Mississippi, work began on Friday on a temporary road to handle two-way traffic on U.S. Highway 90, which runs along the state's Gulf Coast and was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Federal transportation officials said the first phase of that project is to be completed in 90 days. In Louisiana, officials were set to begin work on the Interstate 10 Bridge, which connects New Orleans with Slidell. They hoped to have one-lane, two-way traffic flowing within 45 days and two-lane, two-way traffic within 120 days. When completed, the project will restore road access into New Orleans from the east, officials said.

In New Orleans, power was being restored bit by bit to parts of the city, including the central business district. And by the end of Saturday, a rail link to New Orleans was expected to be reconnected, the Federal Department of Transportation said. Norfolk Southern Railroad has been working to repair a bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to reconnect the city by rail from the east.

In stark contrast with the lawlessness that took over the city in the immediate aftermath of the storm, police officials said Saturday that they had fully restored order in this sodden city.

"We have complete control over the city at this time," said Edwin P. Compass III, superintendent of the New Orleans police. "I think we have had three crimes in the last four days. This is the safest city in America."

Mr. Compass said the department was trying to get supplies, including uniforms and vehicles, so they could get officers back on the streets. Wal-Mart sent six to eight trailers full of food, water, batteries and toiletries for the department this week.

Mr. Compass added, though, that despite the gains that other workers were making in restoring basic services, "we're still in the process of rescuing people from their homes."

It remained unclear whether the city would attempt to evacuate people by force. Mr. Compass on Saturday referred questions on the policy to the city's attorney, who could not be reached.

"We will begin to compel people to leave their homes when the decision is made to do so," said Capt. Marlon Defillo, a spokesman for the Police Department.

For now, he said, "we're appealing to their common sense," telling them in the strictest terms possible that they must leave, and that if they stay, they are hindering the police.

The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that 49,700 rescues had been performed and that 208,000 people were being housed in shelters. It said 20,000 active duty military members, 50,800 National Guard members, 4,000 Coast Guard members and 8,900 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel had responded to the storm.

Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who on Friday was given responsibility for managing the federal relief effort after the FEMA chief, Michael D. Brown, was reassigned to Washington, said he had spent the day helping the parishes in the New Orleans region establish an "organizational coordinating mechanism" to make relief efforts more efficient. Admiral Allen said that the relief effort was focusing on moving evacuees from shelters into temporary housing and that trailers would be brought in to help.

Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, who had been critical of the federal response to the storm, appeared with Admiral Allen and praised him as "a man of resource, a man of innovation, and a man of action. And that's all we've ever needed from Day One."

Mr. Broussard offered a staccato accounting of progress in his parish.

"We're feeding more people," he said. "We're recovering more people. The infrastructure's more improved. We're clearing more roads. We've got more power. We're building more power lines. We've got more drainage lines. Every day, more victories."

In New Orleans, residents who were allowed to return on Saturday used four-wheel-drive vehicles to reach their homes, while others hitched rides with contractors who had been hired to pump water out of the city.

And after days in which the city seemed to house only soldiers, rescuers and stragglers, there were the beginnings of a job boom.

Brian Massey, 50, who rode out the hurricane in his home two miles west of downtown, was part of a city-hired cleanup crew working along Canal Street on Saturday.

"I needed a job," said Mr. Massey, who said he had worked as a plasterer before Hurricane Katrina tore holes in his roof. He said he did not have homeowner's insurance.

Mr. Massey and the others in his crew of 11 were being paid about $125 a day for 10 hours of work by an Illinois-based disaster-recovery company. All crew members were New Orleans residents who refused to evacuate. They had heard through word of mouth that the company, Omni Pinnacle, was hiring laborers, and they went to the firm's base camp near the convention center.

At least some people here were able to focus on events elsewhere.

Six emergency management officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who have been helping officials here for a week planned to hold a small ceremony on Sunday morning to recognize the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Some 300 officers from the New York Police Department will also attend.

In Houston, which is host to about 100,000 storm evacuees, officials said they had suspended a program to distribute debit cards, worth up to $2,000 per family, to the storm victims at the Astrodome complex. Officials said about 12,000 cards were handed out on Thursday and Friday.

According to The Associated Press, FEMA officials said workers would finish distributing the cards this weekend at shelters in Texas. Evacuees in other states will have to supply bank account information to receive aid via direct deposit.

"We tried it as an innovative way to get aid to evacuee populations in Texas," said Natalie Rule, a spokeswoman for FEMA. "We decided it would be more expeditious with direct deposits."

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, drew parallels between what the nation faced after the Sept. 11 attacks and the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life," Mr. Bush said. "This time, the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind."

President Bush plans to make his third trip to the devastated region on Sunday and Monday. Vice President Dick Cheney spent the day in Austin, Tex., where he visited evacuees.

Mr. Cheney, dispatched by Mr. Bush this week to cut through bureaucratic red tape that might be hampering the relief effort, said the federal government would play a critical role in helping states shoulder the burden of so many evacuees. He said that should be the case, especially in helping finance school systems that were accepting new students and local housing agencies that were being turned into long-term residences for displaced residents.

"There are a lot of lessons we want to learn out of this process in terms of what works, how we can do it better, how we can improve our performance around the country," Mr. Cheney said.

 

Sewell Chan contributed reporting from New Orleans for this article,

John Broder from Baton Rouge, La., and Anne E. Kornblut from Austin, Tex.

    As Recovery Starts, Some Lights Go On, Some Mail Is Delivered, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11hurricane.html

 

 

 

 

 

With Small but Steady Steps,

Cleanup and Repair Progressing

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By WILLIAM YARDLEY

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 10 - After nearly two weeks of crisis, officials and workers here and in other devastated parts of the Gulf Coast began making small but meaningful strides Saturday in restoring services and rebuilding the shattered infrastructure.

About 700 city residents were temporarily allowed to return to their homes on Saturday to check their property and to retrieve valuables in largely affluent neighborhoods like Spanish Fort on the northern edge of the city along Lake Pontchartrain and in the Lower Garden District, flush along the crescent the Mississippi River forms around this city.

At City Hall, running water had been restored and one engineer said he expected the building to have power soon. Workers carted city property records from the basement, saying they would be refrigerated to prevent mold from damaging them.

Health officials revised the death toll to 154, from 118 a few days earlier, but said it would not be the final count. They said caution, accuracy and respect were their goals and that they would not work hastily.

"I'm not going to make estimates," said Melissa Walker, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital Services. "These are individuals who perished in a storm and each one is very important."

But whatever the final toll, officials said on Friday that their first systematic sweep of the city had found far fewer bodies than expected, and that the toll would probably be much less than the 10,000 that some officials had initially feared.

Across the region, efforts to restore basic infrastructure continued haltingly.

The Postal Service said that it had resumed limited mail service in the three states affected by the storm.

In Mississippi, work began on Friday on a temporary road to handle two-way traffic on U.S. Highway 90, which runs along the state's Gulf Coast and was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Federal transportation officials said the first phase of that project is to be completed in 90 days. Officials also were set to begin work on the I-10 Bridge in Louisiana, which connects New Orleans with Slidell. They hoped to have one-lane, two-way traffic flowing within 45 days and two-lane, two-way traffic within 120 days. When completed, the project will restore road access into New Orleans from the east, officials said.

In New Orleans, power was being restored bit by bit to parts of the city, including the central business district. And by the end of the day on Saturday, a rail link to New Orleans was expected to be reconnected, the Federal Department of Transportation said. Norfolk Southern Railroad has been working to repair a rail bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to reconnect the city by rail from the east for the first time since the storm hit Aug. 29.

One man recruited to help transport property records from City Hall said he had evacuated and returned to find work. "I wanted to see the city and help the city," said Anthony Condoll, 21.

In the historic Uptown neighborhood, on higher ground by Mississippi River, many of the old oaks at Audubon Park, still stood, but some were heavily pruned by the storm.

Many of the residents who were allowed to return Saturday used four-wheel-drive vehicles to reach their homes, while others hitched rides with contractors who had been hired to pump water out of the city. One resident arrived in a pontoon plane that landed on Lake Pontchartrain.

At least some people here were able to focus on events elsewhere.

Six emergency management officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who have been helping officials here for a week planned to hold a small ceremony on Sunday morning to recognize the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, drew parallels between what the nation faced after those attacks and the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life," Mr. Bush said. "This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind."

"Once more our hearts ache for our fellow citizens, and many are left with questions about the future," he said. "Yet we are again being reminded that adversity brings out the best in the American spirit."

President Bush plans to make his third trip to the devastated region on Sunday and Monday. Vice President Dick Cheney was headed for Texas on Saturday to visit storm evacuees.

 

Sewell Chan and Michael Luo contributed reporting for this article.

    With Small but Steady Steps, Cleanup and Repair Progressing, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11hurricane.html

 

 

 

 

 

Uprooted and Scattered

Far From the Familiar

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By TIMOTHY EGAN

 

BLUFFDALE, Utah, Sept. 9 - Carrying the scraps of their lives in plastic trash bags, citizens of the drowned city of New Orleans landed in a strange new place a week ago and wondered where they were. The land was brown, and nearly everyone they saw was white.

"I'm still not sure where I am - what do they call this, the upper West or something?" said Shelvin Cooter, 30, one of 583 people relocated from New Orleans to a National Guard camp here on a sagebrush plateau south of Salt Lake City, 1,410 miles from home.

"We're getting shown a lot of love, but we're also getting a lot of stares like we're aliens or something," Mr. Cooter said. "Am I the only person out here with dreadlocks?"

Hurricane Katrina has produced a diaspora of historic proportions. Not since the Dust Bowl of the 1930's, or the end of the Civil War in the 1860's have so many Americans been on the move from a single event. Federal officials who are guiding the evacuation say 400,000 to upwards of one million people have been displaced from ruined homes, mainly in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Texas has taken in more than 230,000 people, according to Gov. Rick Perry. But others are scattered across the United States, airlifted from a city that is nine feet below sea level to mile-high shelters in Colorado, to desert mesas in New Mexico, piney woods of Arkansas, flatlands of Oklahoma, the breezy shore of Cape Cod and beige-colored Wasatch Mountain front in Utah.

Many say they will never go back, vowing to build new lives in strange lands, marked forever by the storm that forced their exodus. They seem dazed and disconnected, though happy to be alive, to be breathing clean air, to be dry. Others say they still feel utterly lost, uprooted from all that is familiar, desperate to find a missing brother or aunt.

"The people are so nice, but this place is really strange to me," said Desiree Thompson, who arrived in Albuquerque, last Sunday with six of her children and two grandchildren, along with about 100 other evacuees. "The air is different. My nose feels all dry. The only thing I've seen that looks familiar is the McDonalds."

It came as a shock to Ms. Thompson and others when they were told of their destination - mid-flight. They had boarded a military plane out of New Orleans last weekend, expecting to go to Texas, many of them said.

"In the middle of the flight they told us they were taking us to New Mexico," Ms. Thompson said. "New Mexico! Everyone said, 'My God, they're taking us to another country.' "

It was bad enough, Ms. Thompson said, that one of her sons is in another city and a close family friend is still missing. She cried at the thought of them. Being in a place that felt so far away and foreign only added to the sense of dislocation.

Not that New Mexico - the Land of Enchantment, rainbow-colored chili peppers and a black population of barely 3 percent - has not tried to make the exiled residents of New Orleans feel at home. Naomi Mosley offered free hair styling - "mostly relaxers and hair-straightening," she said - to a handful of women at her parlor, and the Rev. Calvin Robinson was one of the preachers doling out counseling and soul food at a church in Albuquerque.

"This is almost like the exodus of Moses," Mr. Robinson said. "These people have left everything behind. Their friends and relatives are far away. Most of what they had is gone forever. They feel abandoned by the government, but we are trying to make them feel at home."

Indeed, after he consumed two plates of mustard greens, fried chicken, potato salad and corn bread at God's House Church in Albuquerque, 67-year-old Walter Antoine said the dinner was the nearest thing to New Orleans comfort food he has had in more than a week. Like others, he was sleeping in a cot at the Albuquerque Convention Center and was bused to the church for dinner.

But sitting outside at sunset, with the 10,000-foot-high Sandia Mountains in the background, Mr. Antoine was pining for home, his wife and anything that looked or felt familiar. He had walked through knee-high water to a levee, where a helicopter rescued him. "See, I can't get around all that well because I'm a double amputee," he said, lifting his pants to show two prosthetic legs. "If I had a brother or sister or someone here, maybe I might stay. But I don't know anybody. If I'm gonna die, I want to die back in New Orleans."

But with the prospect that New Orleans could remain uninhabitable for months, many of those displaced by the hurricane say they are eager to start anew and never go back. They will always have what federal officials are calling the worst natural disaster in the United States as their common ground, but for now many people say they want to blend in and shed the horror of predatory winds, fetid water and lost loved ones.

"It's just time for another change, for me to start my life over," said Matthew Brown, 37, newly relocated to Amarillo, in the dusty panhandle of Texas. "I have a job and a couple of offers. The money's nice. People like me, treat me right."

Some 70 years ago, Amarillo was losing people, as the largest city inside the hardest hit area of the Dust Bowl. As skies darkened with mile-high walls of dust, and the land dried up, nearly 250,000 people fled from parts of five states in the Southern Plains. They were called Okies and Arkies, and many of them were not welcome in places like Los Angeles, where sheriff's deputies arrested people without visible means of support.

Now the Texas Panhandle, along with Oklahoma to the north, is on the receiving end of people made homeless by a force of nature. And while the evacuees say they have been struck by the kindness of the volunteers and citizens, their relocation could start to strain state services. Texas officials have already indicated that state facilities are near capacity. Nearly 6,000 children from Louisiana have enrolled in Texas schools. After a request from Governor Perry, evacuees were flown to at least 12 other states. But thousands simply moved on their own, arriving by bus or car.

"In some ways this is comparable to the close of the Civil War, or the Dust Bowl, but we have greater numbers now and there's the suddenness of this movement - within a day or two, nearly a million people left their homes," said Jeff Ferrell, a professor of sociology at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who has studied urban dislocation.

"There's been a tremendously generous response," he said. "But what happens over the next few months? In Texas, we couldn't even get the Legislature to fully fund the schools."

The diaspora is also concentrated close to home. Baton Rouge has nearly doubled from its pre-storm population of 250,000, according to some city estimates, and that has already caused some grumbling among its residents. From there, evacuees spread out in ripples, with heavy populations in Georgia, Arkansas and Texas, and then to the nation's far corners, to the Rocky Mountain states, the Pacific Northwest and New England.

For now, after complaints from people who said they were being moved too many times, making it difficult to get anchored, federal officials say they putting a hold on plans to fly large groups of people to other states.

Joseph Haynes moved his wife, a family friend and two grown sons to Seattle, arriving in two cars after a 2,100-mile journey from their home in New Orleans. Mr. Haynes said he left behind a house he owns and a mechanic's job that he suspects will never come back. He headed for Seattle because one of his sons lives there.

"What good is me going back with my family to a city that is dead?" he said. "Then my life would be dead. So I need to move on."

Here in Utah, more than a 100 of the evacuees have boarded buses from the shelter to go to Denver and Dallas, and then beyond. They said they needed to be closer to home. But others have already found jobs in the Beehive State, which has a black population of less than 1 percent according to the last census, and say they intend to stay.

"I didn't have a clue where they were taking us," said Reginald Allen, 36, smoking a cigarette outside his temporary home at Camp Williams. "But when they told us it was Utah, I just said, 'Well, it's a change. I gotta adapt.' And now I got a job, and I plan to make this my home. I think I could be a cold-weather guy.' "

The Red Cross, which has been widely praised for running many of the shelters, helped to organize a job fair here on Thursday, which resulted in the hiring of 40 people.

But there are some incongruous sites. Inside the community center at Camp Williams, where people are staying in barracks-style rooms, a posted sign gave notice of the chance to use the "rock-climbing wall today" as well the impending arrival of "ethnic hair products."

Like other shelters that are now fast-emptying as people move into apartments, the one here was full of rolling rumors about a $2,000 debit card from the government - initially offered, then withdrawn by FEMA, then offered again - and clues about missing family members. Some of the evacuees still have a 2,000-mile stare in their eyes , and they are frustrated by their inability to connect to people who were left behind and who may be dead or lost or in another distant shelter.

"I got out on a helicopter line, but I saw one woman, she was too heavy, and she snapped the cable and fell into the water," said George Lee Jr., 24. "Back home, the roof caved in on my bedroom, in my grandma's house. But I'm O.K. My plan now is to find a job, save some money, and then maybe move to Florida."

For those who do stay here, one question was whether they would become more like people in Utah, or if Utahans would become more like them. There was some evidence of the latter. This week, a Cajun-themed dinner was planned in Salt Lake for one of the most far-flung of the wandering tribes of New Orleans.

 

Maureen Balleza, in Houston, and David Carrillo Peñaloza, in Seattle, contributed reporting for this article.

Uprooted and Scattered Far From the Familiar, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11diaspora.html

 

 

 

 

 

What Will It Take

to Safeguard New Orleans?

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By BILL MARSH

 

NEW ORLEANS has long lived with the hurricane protection that it, and the nation, were willing to pay for. Measured against the costs of Katrina's fury, however, better armor may suddenly seem more affordable.

With officials vowing to rebuild New Orleans, the question of how fully to defend the city against another catastrophe will be examined as never before.

Unlike San Francisco or Los Angeles, where there is no way to prevent widespread destruction from the most powerful earthquakes, New Orleans is uniquely dependent on one feature: its aging network of levees. If levees hold back the water, the city is spared. If they fail, much of the city is ruined.

"For people to feel confident about coming back again, they're going to have to rebuild the levee system," said Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. They must be taller and stronger, he said, built for the worst-case Category 5 storm. Existing levees were designed decades ago to withstand only a quickly receding Category 3.

The success of levees in a restored New Orleans will depend partly on the resilience of other civil engineering, and on wetlands between the city and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the condition of these outer defenses is poor: Barrier islands and wetlands are disappearing, and gates to protect against storm surges and waves are years away.

Mississippi River levees have choked off the sediment that built and nourished surrounding wetlands. With the rise in sea levels, about 30 square miles is submerged every year. The slow march of the gulf shore toward New Orleans can only be bad for civil defense. Computer modeling shows that in smaller, more frequent hurricanes, storm surges increase as land is diminished.

"Land absorbs wave energy; the physics have been well established," said Gregory W. Stone, a professor of coastal geology at Louisiana State University. His study found that coastal surges increased 8 to 10 feet from 1950 to the 1990's because of land loss.

In another 15 years, models project, surges and waves on the coast will have increased a further 6 to 12 feet if the erosion continues.

But the benefit of revived wetlands to New Orleans may be limited.

"I don't think a city should depend on tall grass," said Hassan Mashriqui, a professor of engineering at Louisiana State. "In general, if there is a barrier, that helps. If there is a 25-foot surge coming, does that make it two feet less in New Orleans? It has yet to be proven."

That's because a Katrina-size hurricane, on course to blow a large surge into the city, has yet to occur - an eventuality too serious, some say, to count on islands and marshes to stop the water.

"The enemy is the Gulf of Mexico," said Roy K. Dokka, a professor of engineering at Louisiana State. "If you're at sea level and the National Weather Service tells you you're going to have a 20-foot storm surge, you need to have a wall more than 20 feet high."

The engineering challenges are daunting and costly: The city is sinking, and old elevation measurements used to determine levee heights are obsolete. (They were inaccurate, anyway.) Bigger levees are heavier and more likely to sink. Gates that block surges entering Lake Pontchartrain might deflect the water elsewhere, perhaps to other coastal settlements, which would in turn need their own levee systems.

Those gates were proposed and blocked on environmental and other grounds in the 1970's. "Probably a lot of lives could have been saved if they had been in place," said Mr. Stone.

What Will It Take to Safeguard New Orleans?, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/weekinreview/11marsh.html

 

 

 

 

 


Business, Though Not as Usual,

Starts Stirring in New Orleans

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By JODI WILGOREN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 9 - Bones broken, vital organs far from functional, the faintest pulse has begun to beat in the battered and beleaguered streets of the Big Easy.

The Drury Inn welcomed its first post-hurricane guests on Friday night, warning that housekeeping would be weekly, not daily, the exercise room was off-limits and continental breakfast was canceled. A tow-truck driver collected a dozen Cadillacs taken from a dealership during the chaos. A dozen men with walkie-talkies worked on wiring the 51 floors of One Shell Square, the city's largest office building.

There is a very tired man patching tires for $12 on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood, and there is a gruff Irish bartender opening icy bottles of Budweiser and Bud Light (Heineken if you know somebody) for $3 in the French Quarter. And on many a downtown street, there is a guy with a blower strapped to his back or a broom in his hand, trying to tidy the place up.

"It may not be the grandest job," said Joe Salazar, 50, who said he used to be a clerk in a medical clinic, but now is one of dozens donning dirty R.F.Q., for Rebuild French Quarter, T-shirts as they sweep. "I feel that every street that's clean, that makes it easier for the city to come back."

The vast majority of businesses here are locked tight, the only sign of survival the spray-painted signs promising that looters will be shot. Yet there are snippets of economic activity and signs of more to come soon.

Thousands of emergency personnel and journalists are being joined by contractors and cleanup crews, busting the borders of the makeshift encampment of motor homes along Canal Street. They need somewhere to sleep, and how many meals ready to eat can a person eat?

So far, Salvation Army trucks and free-for-all barbecues at Harrah's casino, the police staging area, have sufficed, but the owner of the Palace Café was here on Friday with men in paper masks and knee-high boots to clean out the walk-in freezers.

"The one thing we can do in New Orleans, if they are coming down here, is feed them some good food," said Dickie Brennan, who owns four downtown restaurants, including the 300-seat Palace. "We can serve five-star meals."

The day before, Jason Mohney, owner of the Hustler and three other local strip clubs, arrived with a few dancers and bouncers and some high-powered flashlights, and found little damage to the red velvet heart-shaped couches and shiny disco balls, just a little moisture and mold on carpets - probably flooded, but perhaps from spilled beer.

"As soon as we have power, that will be the only thing that's keeping us from opening," Mr. Mohney said. "There'll be couch dances as soon as we can get open," he promised, though one of the dancers, Dawn Beasley, offered one on the spot ($30).

According to the Entergy Corporation's storm center Web site, 89 percent of Orleans Parish, which includes the city, remained without power heading into the weekend, though the lights were back on at several buildings and hotels in the central business district considered critical to the recovery effort, as well as at a sewage station on Avenue C and the Audubon Zoo.

The Drury Inn was one of the first hotels to reopen, the electricity restored early because it is next to Bell South headquarters. It is swapping a week's worth of 75 rooms, about half its capacity, for the help the phone company provided leading its staff through checkpoints into the city and setting its systems straight.

"If we house them, then that allows them to do their job," said Omar Willis, general manager of a Drury Inn in Houston, who is here for the duration. "It's mutually beneficial."

Guests got a memo along with their room keys that explained the strange situation. "We do not know if the shower/tub and tap water is safe for bathing," it warned. The switchboard would not be staffed day and night. Trash cans and dirty towels should be placed in hallways.

"We're going to do with what we have," said the general manager, Palestine Riles. "We have electricity, we have A.C., we have clean beds. It's some sort of normality back in the city. We're trying to get back on our feet."

But as some hotels were reopening, the Best Western on St. Charles Avenue, which had filled its 123 rooms every night since the storm despite the lack of running water and electricity, posted a sign Friday night saying everybody would have to check out by 4 p.m. Saturday. The manager, Melissa Kennedy, said she could not continue to operate because her employees and special cleanup crews were blocked from getting into the city; a laundry service came to pick up linens for the first time Thursday, but spent six hours stuck at a highway checkpoint Friday and never made it back.

"We have mold growing in the building, not enough people to clean it out," said Ms. Kennedy, who has been running the place from a folding table topped with an open jar of Jif peanut butter and half a loaf of bread. "We'll reopen as soon as security lightens up."

With the computer system down, Ms. Kennedy took credit-card imprints and logged checkouts by hand from the journalists who had spent days hovered at the lobby bar, where there was wireless Internet service and people ate cold ravioli and kidney beans from the can. "I'm hoping everyone in the media's honest enough to give me a valid credit card," she said. "I tell them I can give a handwritten receipt on stationary, or mail them one when the computers get up and running."

Outside the historic former City Hall annex in the central business district, lawyers from the firm of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann filled a U-Haul with files and computer servers to take to their temporary office in Baton Rouge. "We're not moving out forever, we're just getting some essential equipment," said John Colbert, a partner. "We want to come back as soon as we can."

Around the corner, a crew from Walton Construction assessed the damage at one of eight La Quinta hotels, preparing to start repairs Monday. "I'm fortunate to be in the construction business," said the owner, Bill Petty. "You see bankers, retail people, hoteliers, all out of work."

Scattered throughout the French Quarter, a smattering of taverns and cafes are already serving, some never having stopped. At Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant on Friday, an open bottle of Champagne on a sidewalk table was surrounded by Mardi Gras beads, one strand attached to an envelope that held a condom and read, "Prepare to Party."

Molly's at the Market, on Decatur Street, is open daily from 11 a.m. to the city's 6 p.m. curfew rather than its usual 6 a.m. last call, and the owner, Jim Monahan, makes change from a metal lockbox. There are no lights - the beer is on ice that friends mysteriously manage to muster each day - but there are regulars on the stools.

"The place has been closed 29 hours in 31 years - it's a tradition," said Mr. Monahan, who inherited the bar four years ago from his father. "It's just what my father taught me. You come to work every day. We're hard-working Irish people."

Dollars line the bar for tips, though much of the business within the city borders these days is done by barter. Georgia Walker, who has 20 cats, traded water for cat food the other day with "a bum on the street"; Frank Shea had a surplus of dog food and ended up with oranges. Benjamin Blackwell, who is earning $125 a day running nine-man cleanup crews for Omni Pinnacle, a private company hired by FEMA, swapped cold water for eyewash with an ambulance driving by.

And if you bust a tire, well, there is only one place to go. St. Claude Used Tires looks as if it was barely standing before the hurricane hit; since, it has replaced or repaired nearly 100 tires. Joe Peters, the broken-down owner of the broken-down shop, was sitting outside one day after the storm when a police officer asked if he could fix a flat; another lined up behind him, and it has hardly stopped since.

"I charge the media because they have an expense account," Mr. Peters said, pointing to the price list, $6 for a plug, $12 for a patch, $35 for a 16-inch tire, at least until he runs out. "The City of New Orleans, the government, they sign the book, we'll square up later."

Mr. Peters said, "It feels good to be doing something for my city that's in such bad shape." Sure he is making a little money besides, "but where I'm going to spend it at?"

"I can't go buy a beer," he said, gesturing at the wide boulevard of shuttered stores. "I can't get no red beans and pork chops."

    Business, Though Not as Usual, Starts Stirring in New Orleans, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11orleans.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Stretches Refiners Past a Perilous Point

NYT        11.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/business/11refine.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Stretches Refiners

Past a Perilous Point

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By JAD MOUAWAD

 

For the nation's oil refiners, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster long in the making.

Analysts and industry executives had for years feared the consequences of a storm ramming into the country's largest energy hub - a complex infrastructure that spans most of the coastline between Texas and Alabama, where nearly half of the nation's refineries are located.

Hurricane Katrina confirmed the worst predictions. Wreaking havoc along the coastal states, drowning New Orleans and leaving many dead, the storm shut down nearly all the gulf's offshore oil and gas production for over a week. Racing to restore operations, the industry has brought about 60 percent of that back.

But even more crucially, it knocked off a dozen refineries at the peak of summer demand, sending oil prices higher and gasoline prices to inflation-adjusted records.

The events of the last two weeks have demonstrated how close to the edge the country's refining system had been operating, even before the storm. Because the last American refinery was built nearly 30 years ago - with only a single new one now in the works - the problem is unlikely to disappear quickly.

As a consequence, even though crude oil prices have fallen back to pre-Katrina levels, prices for gasoline, heating oil, diesel and jet fuel are expected to remain higher than they were before the storm for a much longer period of time.

"There is now a greater realization that we don't have much extra capacity," said Edward H. Murphy, a refining specialist at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade and lobbying group. "It doesn't take a Katrina, but even a smaller event can create a dislocation in the market. Disasters like this can give you a billboard on the need to address this. We need more capacity."

The rapid run-up in oil prices over the last two years has translated into a boon for refiners after many years of meager returns. This year, the refining margin - the difference between the cost of buying crude oil and selling refined end products - has exceeded $20 a barrel, far above the long-term average of $6. That has meant record profits for oil companies and refiners and above-average stock performance on Wall Street.

With profits soaring, the nation's refiners are now being blamed by many drivers and politicians for contributing to the run-up in prices. Indeed, to critics of the industry, the higher profits are evidence of a policy to intentionally limit refining capacity to improve the bottom line.

"Oil companies have jacked up gasoline prices through a simple mechanism: reducing inventories and refining capacity," said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, an advocacy group, whose views are widely shared by industry opponents.

"They are supposed to compete and bring the lowest price to consumers," Mr. Court said. "But the truth is that a small number of oil companies cheat by working together by artificially reducing supplies."

But that argument misses the point, said Bob Slaughter, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

"What's happened can be explained by the higher cost of crude oil, the difficulties in building new refineries and the disaster that cut right through the heart of the industry," Mr. Slaughter said.

Currently, four major refineries, owned by Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Murphy Oil, are either flooded or without power, and are likely to be out of commission for several weeks, perhaps months. Together, these refine 880,000 barrels a day, or 5 percent of domestic capacity. "It's very significant," said Colm McDermott, an oil analyst at John S. Herold Inc. The loss is equal to 1 percent of the world's refining capacity. "It's a global market and that's certainly enough to have an impact on a global level."

As many as 15 other refineries, also affected by the storm, are resuming production, but some are still operating at limited capacity.

"There's going to be a lot of pressure on these people to get things up and running and deal with the maintenance issues as they come up," said James W. Jones, a vice president at Turner, Mason & Company, a refining consultancy in Dallas.

Many parts of the industry are recovering rapidly. The most damage offshore was sustained by Royal Dutch Shell, which said Friday that its production, usually about 450,000 barrels a day, would be down by 40 percent through the end of the year.

But even as oil and gas production returns in the gulf, the time that it will take refineries to get back to full speed will be a key factor in determining how long product prices will remain elevated.

Under normal conditions, because of the close proximity of volatile materials, high pressure and fire, restarting a refinery is a dangerous process that can take anywhere between three to seven days.

In the refinery, oil is heated to around 1,110 degrees Fahrenheit, turned into vapor and then collected at various temperatures, creating products that are further refined to remove impurities, allowing for the production of gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel and kerosene.

For the four damaged refineries - three are in the vicinity of New Orleans, and the fourth is in Pascagoula, Miss. - restarting will involve a much longer process. First, power must be restored. Once that happens, generators, pumps and other electrical equipment flooded by brackish water will need to be dried out. Removing salt sediments will add to the ordeal. Then the operators must check that none of their main systems have suffered any structural damage before firing them back up.

So far, none of the refineries have provided an estimate of how long all that will take. In its latest report, Chevron, whose 325,000 barrels-a-day refinery is the largest of the four, said "it will be days before a full estimate of damage is known or when operations can be safely brought back online."

Most Americans now pay more than $3 a gallon for gasoline - matching inflation-adjusted highs reached after the Iranian revolution in the late 1970's and early 1980's and the equivalent, on a per-barrel basis, to $126. Oil prices, which touched a high of $70.85 a barrel last week, now trade around $64 a barrel, still about $20 short of the record set in 1981.

"If we lose three or four refiners for two or three months, that shortfall is going to be very difficult to make up," said William E. Greehey, the chief executive of Valero, the nation's largest independent refiner. "I don't know how anyone can blame it on us when we've just had the worst natural disaster in the United States' history."

The refining outages prompted an international response from industrialized nations to send emergency stocks of oil and gasoline to the United States to plug the shortfall.

But that is only a temporary solution to a crisis that has been waiting to erupt for years.

Since the 1980's, the number of refiners in the United States has been cut in half. From a peak of 324 in 1981, the industry has shrunk to 149 as the smaller, less efficient and less profitable operators once protected by price controls closed, leaving mostly larger companies in place.

Refining capacity has fallen about 10 percent, to 17 million barrels a day, while oil consumption rose by 33 percent over the same 24-year period, to 20.8 million barrels a day.

Meanwhile, refiners have been increasing their skill in turning crude into useful products; efficiency improved by 27 percent between 1981 and 2004. Still, the difference must be made up by direct imports of refined products, with gasoline imports now at 1 million barrels a day.

As their numbers dwindled, most remaining refiners expanded their plants and added equipment to process more oil. Many refiners now typically run at 95 percent of capacity, a level that is dangerously high and that has led to a growing number of accidents in recent years.

In March, for example, a blast at BP's Texas City refinery, the country's third-largest, killed 15 and injured 170 people. The company was blamed by investigators with the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board for "systemic lapses."

Following the agency's recommendation, BP appointed an independent panel last month to review the "safety culture" of its American refining operations.

Only one project to build a new refinery is currently under way. For the last six years, Glenn McGinnis said he has been struggling to line up the permits, funding and oil supplies to build a refinery from scratch in a remote patch in Southwest Arizona.

"The fundamental reason why there has not been a new refinery built for years is really two reasons - economics and uncertainty," Mr. McGinnis said.

Traditionally, the profit margin for refineries has averaged about 6 percent, a rate of return too low to encourage much new investment. Added to that is the lengthy process involved in securing the permits from state and federal agencies. "If you take permits, and engineering, and building," Mr. McGinnis said, "you're talking about a 10-year horizon from the time you decide to build to the day the refinery is completed."

Another issue that has slowed expansion, refiners said, was the cost of complying with environmental regulations set in the 1990's under the Clean Air Act. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that refiners have spent $47 billion over the last decade to meet carbon-emission standards and low-sulfur regulations, with more investments needed through 2007. That, refiners say, is money not spent to raise capacity.

It has been cheaper to add refining capacity through acquisitions rather than new projects. Valero recently bought Premcor for $10,000 a barrel of capacity, a price many analysts deemed high. But that is well below the $16,000 a barrel that Arizona Clean Fuels, Mr. McGinnis' project, expects to invest.

Elsewhere in the world, some oil producers are planning to build new refineries. Saudi Arabia is one of them. "We cannot keep producing oil with no refineries," Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, told the industry newsletter Petroleum Argus a few months ago. "There is a limit."

While helpful, such moves abroad would mostly serve to shift the country's increasing reliance on foreign oil producers to a greater dependence on refiners abroad.

"We are going to be importing more products," Mr. Murphy of the American Petroleum Institute said. "That is a certainty if we don't expand our capacity. But the problem there is that you've changed one form of dependency for another."

 

Barnaby J. Feder contributed reporting for this article.

Storm Stretches Refiners Past a Perilous Point, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/business/11refine.html

 

 

 

 

 

No Fixed Address

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times

By JAMES DAO

 

WASHINGTON — The images of starving, exhausted, flood-bedraggled people fleeing New Orleans and southern Mississippi over the last two weeks have scandalized many Americans long accustomed to seeing such scenes only in faraway storm-tossed or war-ravaged places like Kosovo, Sudan or Banda Aceh.

But Hurricane Katrina delivered America its own refugee crisis, arguably the worst since Sherman's army burned its way across the South. And though the word "refugee" is offensive to some, and not accurate according to international law, it conveys a fundamental truth: these are people who will be unable to return home for months, possibly years. Many almost certainly will make new homes in new places.

It is not the first time the United States has faced a mass internal migration: think of the "Okies" who fled the drought-ravaged Dust Bowl for fertile California in the 1930's, or Southern blacks who took the Delta blues to Chicago in the first half of the last century.

But the wreckage wrought by Katrina across the Gulf Coast is probably unprecedented in American history. No storm has matched the depth and breadth of its devastation. And the two disasters that demolished major cities - the Chicago fire of 1871 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 - occurred when the federal government lacked the resources and agencies to help the displaced. They offer few clues about how to aid and comfort Katrina's victims.

For that reason, many experts say, the federal government should look for long-term strategies among the groups that have resettled millions of refugees from those faraway storm-tossed or war-ravaged places - two million of them here in the United States since 1975.

"These groups have a different way of seeing the problem: that it's not just short-term emergency relief," said Roberta Cohen, an expert on refugees at the Brookings Institution who helped write guidelines on aiding internally displaced people for the United Nations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has welcomed some help from agencies that specialize in disaster relief overseas, including the United Nations and the United States Agency for International Development.

But despite Katrina's magnitude, FEMA officials say their approach to resettling evacuees is not likely to differ significantly from the approach here to past disasters. They have ordered 100,000 trailers and mobile homes that will be placed in "trailer cities" in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. They have begun finding short-term apartments in Houston and Baton Rouge. And the Red Cross and other aid groups plan to provide psychological counseling and housing assistance at its temporary shelters.

"This is larger, but the process is the same," said James McIntyre, a FEMA spokesman.

Experts in refugee resettlement say the old ways might not be enough. Thousands of the New Orleans evacuees were poor or elderly; many were on welfare or have limited job skills. Many have been sent far from family and friends. Meeting their needs, and rebuilding the shattered Gulf Coast cities, will take a far more long-term and comprehensive plan, those experts say.

"The approach now is very ad hoc," said Mark Franken, executive director of migration and refugee services for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "They are moving people from one temporary environment to another."

Mr. Franken said nine resettlement organizations had proposed re-creating their refugee services for evacuees: finding jobs and long-term independent housing, acclimating people to new communities and providing careful case management that lasts months. The Bush administration is still reviewing that proposal, he said. The administration, he added, said groups should be prepared to care for half a million evacuees.

Other experts contend that the federal government should create a large-scale public works program to employ evacuees, possibly in rebuilding New Orleans itself. Gene Dewey, who retired in June as the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said one model, as far-fetched as it sounds, might be the Afghan Civilian Conservation Corps - named after the Depression-era program started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt - that the Bush administration created in Afghanistan in 2003. By paying returnees to build roads, plant trees and restore schools, the program provided dignity as well as money, Mr. Dewey said.

"This is a time when you need that kind of Franklin Roosevelt thinking," he said.

Hugh Parmer, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development in the 1990's and who has advised federal officials on a post-Katrina strategy, said the Kosovo crisis of 1999 taught him that the most humane way to resettle refugees was to avoid placing them in large shelters or camps.

Mr. Parmer added that the organization he currently leads, the American Refugee Committee International, plans to open mobile health clinics in Louisiana this week. It will be the first time the group, founded in 1979 to assist Southeast Asian refugees, has done work inside the United States.

"We run six mobile clinics in Darfur, and we've been joking that we're going to move the Sudan model to southern Louisiana," Mr. Parmer said.

Julia Taft, who directed a Ford administration task force that oversaw the resettlement of 131,000 Southeast Asian refugees in the United States in 1975, said religious groups and private relief agencies were able to resettle those refugees in nine months because they had a vast network of volunteers, churches and synagogues.

"What we need to do is treat them like refugees," Ms. Taft said of the hurricane's victims. "We've got to recognize that they are going to be displaced for a significant period of time."

Some people, most prominently the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have objected to calling the storm victims refugees, asserting that the word is inappropriate and even racist. Under international law, refugees are defined as people who cross national borders to flee persecution.

Ms. Cohen of the Brookings Institution said the evacuees from the Gulf Coast fit neatly into a newer category: "internally displaced persons." In the 1990's, when the end of the cold war and the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to ethnic strife and civil war across the Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa, the term was popularized by aid workers who contended that Western nations should intervene, with force if necessary, when governments failed to help large numbers of displaced people.

The United States, thanks to its resources, has largely been spared such dislocations. But not completely. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 may have displaced more than half a million people. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 displaced more than 200,000 people. The Chicago fire of 1871 left 100,000 residents, a third of the city, homeless.

Donald L. Miller, professor of history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and author of "City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America," said the 1871 fire, like Katrina, had a sudden and catastrophic impact, particularly on poor Irish immigrants.

The federal government dispatched troops to keep order, but offered little direct assistance to victims. Churches, charities and business groups tried to fill the vacuum, but most of the displaced drifted into tent cities and shantytowns to fend for themselves, Professor Miller said.

But if the fire offers few clear tips on how government should respond to Katrina, he said, it is instructive in one way: many of the evacuees stayed close to Chicago and helped rebuild it. By the late 1880's, it was the fifth-largest city in the world, a commercial hub and birthplace of a new, more muscular - and more fireproof - architecture.

"I don't understand the despair regarding New Orleans," he said. "We rebuilt Chicago. We rebuilt Berlin and Tokyo. We can do it again."

    No Fixed Address, NYT, 11.9.2005,
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/weekinreview/11james.html

 

 

 

 

 

In New Orleans,

Some Business Begins to Stir

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By JODI WILGOREN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 9 - The faintest pulse has begun to beat in the battered and beleaguered streets of the Big Easy.

The Drury Inn and Suites welcomed its first post-Katrina guests on Friday night, warning that housekeeping would be weekly, not daily, the exercise room was off limits and continental breakfast was canceled. A tow-truck driver collected a dozen Cadillacs taken from a dealership during the flooded chaos. A dozen men with walkie-talkies worked on wiring the 51 floors of One Shell Square, the city's largest office building.

There is a very tired man patching tires for $12 on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood, and there is a gruff Irish bartender opening icy bottles of Budweiser and Bud Lite (Heineken if you know somebody) for $3 in the French Quarter. And on many a downtown street, there is a guy with a blower strapped to his back or a broom in his hand, trying to tidy the place up.

"It may not be the grandest job," said Joe Salazar, 50, who said he used to be a clerk in a medical clinic, but now is one of dozens donning dirty R.F.Q., for Rebuild French Quarter, T-shirts as they sweep. "I feel that every street that's clean, that makes it easier for the city to come back."

The vast majority of businesses here are locked tight, the only sign of survival the spray-painted signs promising looters will be shot. Yet there are snippets of economic activity and symptoms of more to come soon. Thousands of emergency personnel and journalists are being joined by contractors and cleanup crews, busting the borders of the makeshift encampment of motor homes along Canal Street. They need somewhere to sleep, and how many meals ready to eat can a person eat?

So far, Salvation Army trucks and free-for-all barbecues at Harrah's casino, the police staging area, have sufficed, but the owner of the Palace Café was here on Friday afternoon with men in paper masks and knee-high boots to clean out the walk-in freezers.

"The one thing we can do in New Orleans, if they are coming down here, is feed them some good food," said Dickie Brennan, who owns four downtown restaurants, including the 300-seat Palace. "We can serve five-star meals."

The day before, Jason Mohney, owner of the Hustler and three other local strip clubs, arrived with a few dancers and bouncers and some high-powered flashlights, and found little damage to the red velvet heart-shaped couches and shiny disco balls, just a little moisture and mold on carpets - probably flooded, but perhaps from spilled beer.

"As soon as we have power, that will be the only thing that's keeping us from opening," Mr. Mohney said. "There'll be couch dances as soon as we can get open," he promised, though one of the dancers, Dawn Beasley, offered one on the spot ($30).

The Drury Inn was one of the first hotels to reopen, the electricity restored early because of its location next door to Bell South headquarters. It is swapping a week's worth of 75 rooms, about half its capacity, for the help the phone company provided leading its staff through checkpoints into the city and setting its systems straight.

"If we house them, then that allows them to do their job," said Omar Willis, general manager of a Drury Inn in Houston who is here for the duration. "It's mutually beneficial."

Guests got a one-page memo along with their room keys that explained the strange situation. "We do not know if the shower/tub and tap water is safe for bathing," it warned. The switchboard would not be staffed day and night. Trash cans and dirty towels should be placed in hallways.

"We're going to do with what we have we have electricity, we have A.C., we have clean beds," said the general manager, Palestine Riles. "It's some sort of normality back in the city. We're trying to get back on our feet."

A few blocks away at the Best Western, there is no running water, telephone service or television, but all of its 123 rooms have nonetheless been booked every night since the storm for $99, most by the media. There is wireless Internet service in the air-conditioned bar, where people eat cold ravioli and kidney beans from the can. On Thursday, for the first time, a laundry service picked up linens; it was unclear Friday afternoon when they might return.

"Our biggest problem hasn't been contractors willing to come out and help us, it's been security not letting them in," said Melissa Kennedy, the manager, who is running the place from a folding table topped with an open jar of Jif peanut butter and half a loaf of bread.

With the computer system down, Ms. Kennedy is taking credit card imprints and keeping a check-in-and-out log by hand. "I'm hoping everyone in the media's honest enough to give me a valid credit card," she said. "I tell them I can give a handwritten receipt on stationery, or mail them one when the computers get up and running."

Outside the historic former City Hall annex in the central business district, lawyers from the firm of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann filled a U-Haul with files and computer servers to take to their temporary office in Baton Rouge. "We're not moving out forever, we're just getting some essential equipment," said John Colbert, a partner. "We want to come back as soon as we can."

Around the corner, a crew from Walton Construction assessed the damage at one of eight La Quinta hotel properties, preparing to start repairs Monday. "I'm fortunate to be in the construction business," said the owner, Bill Petty. "You see bankers, retail people, hoteliers, all out of work."

Scattered throughout the French Quarter, a smattering of taverns and cafes are already serving, some never having stopped. At Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant on Friday afternoon, an open bottle of Champagne on a sidewalk table was surrounded by Mardi Gras beads, one strand attached to an envelope that held a condom and read, "Prepare to Party."

Molly's at the Market, on Decatur Street, is open daily from 11 a.m. to the city's 6 p.m. curfew rather than its usual 6 a.m. last call, and the owner, Jim Monahan, makes change from a metal lockbox. There are no lights - the beer is on ice that friends mysteriously manage to muster each day - but there are regulars on the stools.

"The place has been closed 29 hours in 31 years - it's a tradition," said Mr. Monahan, who inherited the bar four years ago from his father. "It's just what my father taught me. You come to work every day. We're hard-working Irish people."

Dollars line the bar for tips, though much of the business within the city borders these days is done by barter. Georgia Walker, who has 20 cats, traded water for cat food the other day with "a bum on the street"; Frank Shea had a surplus of dog food and ended up with oranges. Benjamin Blackwell, who is earning $125 a day running nine-man cleanup crews for Omni Pinnacle, a private company contracted by FEMA, swapped cold water for eyewash with an ambulance driving by.

And if you bust a tire, well, there is only one place to go. St. Claude Used Tires looks like it was barely standing before the hurricane hit; since, it has replaced or repaired nearly 100 tires. Joe Peters, the broken-down owner of the broken-down shop, was sitting outside one day after the storm when a police officer asked if he could fix a flat; another lined up behind him, and it has hardly stopped since.

"I charge the media because they have an expense account," Mr. Peters said, pointing to the price list, $6 for a plug, $12 for a patch, $35 for a 16-inch tire, at least until he runs out. "The City of New Orleans, the government, they sign the book, we'll square up later."

Mr. Peters said, "It feels good to be doing something for my city that's in such bad shape." Sure he is making a little money besides, "but where I'm going to spend it at?"

"I can't go buy a beer," he said, gesturing at the wide boulevard of shuttered stores. "I can't get no red beans and pork chops."

    In New Orleans, Some Business Begins to Stir, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11orleans.html

 

 

 

 

 

For Storm Survivors,

a Mosaic of Impressions

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 10 - For the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, there is no shared moment to put one's finger on, no clock-stopping space-holder of history as there was on Nov. 22, 1963, or on Sept. 11 to remind them: this was where we were and what we were doing when it all came down.

The disaster was incremental rather than cataclysmic. Instead of a crystalline moment of memory, there are infinite numbers, each with its own marker: a long journey, a recurring noise, the last words of a dear relative. Depending on where people were, what decisions they made in the blur of the crisis and how the authorities responded, every portrait of the storm is different, like a jigsaw puzzle in which no two pieces are alike.

For Robert Newman Jr., a 32-year-old resident of St. Bernard's Parish, about seven miles south of New Orleans, the thing that sticks in his head about the storm is a chorus of screams. People in his community, one of the most devastated areas in Katrina's path, watched for days in growing rage and frustration as helicopter after helicopter raced overhead, bound north for New Orleans with no acknowledgment of the stranded, beleaguered people below. He came to understand, he said, how a person could go crazy enough to shoot at a helicopter, if only from the unbearable stress and anxiety of being ignored for days on a roof without water and food.

"People are just screaming and screaming on every roof," he said, sitting on the couch of his cousin's apartment here in Baton Rouge where he and other family members have taken up temporary residence. "But who do you help?"

Mr. Newman and his brother Paul, 24, eventually managed to find a boat, and rescued as many people as they could, including an elderly couple who were standing side by side, neck deep in a swamp surrounded by snakes. They almost passed the old couple by, until the woman managed to reach up and wave.

But the rescue they both wanted to talk about most because it was the most serendipitous and unlikely came when they were trying to siphon gas from the engine of an empty boat that they had captured. Their own motor was turned off, and that is the only reason they heard the tapping sound from a roof nearby. They hacked through the shingles with a machete and found an elderly woman under the eaves with her little dog.

The strange thing was, they said, that the woman had a hatchet in her hand. They took her and the dog and the hatchet and chugged off into the neighborhood.

Some people, like Stephen Stearns, 20, of St. Bernard's Parish, have been thinking about decisions that altered the course of events, for better or for worse. His mother, Marion Stearns, 54, insisted on riding out Katrina at home, as she had every hurricane before.

But this was not every hurricane before.

On Monday, Aug. 29, with almost no warning, the flood waters surged in St. Bernard's Parish, smashing down the front door of their house, Mr. Stearns said. He managed to get outside, but his mother and his father, Arthur Stearns, were trapped.

They got separated by the raging waters, as the furniture banged and careened through the house. Arthur Stearns dived repeatedly searching for his wife, and finally saved himself by smashing a fist through the ceiling and pushing his head through the hole into the attic to breathe.

Mrs. Stearns didn't make it and drowned.

Her last words to her husband were about their son: "Make sure Stephen gets out," Stephen Stearns said.

Margaret Chopin's family was piling together in their cars on Sunday before the storm to head north out of New Orleans across the Lake Pontchartrain for higher ground and safety.

At the last second, her younger brother, Roy Joseph Jr., 54, stepped out of the car. His phobia of crossing over water, he told the family, was too much. He could not face the trip and would stay in town.

"We talked to him Monday night," said Ms. Chopin, who is 55, as she stood by the family's cots at one of Baton Rouge's largest shelters this week. "He said his car had been crushed by a tree and was underwater, but that he was all right. We haven't heard from him since."

People who specialize in the rich oral history and folklore of Louisiana say that Katrina's stories must be saved and that plans are already being put together for a more organized and formal accounting of what hundreds of thousands of people did and thought during the storm. The first interviews could begin as early as this week.

"We want to create a central data base for all the different organizations that are collecting stories," said Jocelyn Donlon, co-executive director of the Center for Cultural Resources, a non-profit group based in Baton Rouge that works on oral history. "We want to focus on how these stories might influence future public policy."

Some people came together during the storm in support and self-defense, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, in picaresque, improbable journeys that framed the experience through bonds of friendship.

"We called ourselves the Band," said Greg Lupo, a tourist from Ohio who walked out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River with his girlfriend, Cathi Pentella, and three New Orleans residents who all met one another waiting for a rescue bus that never came.

Mr. Lupo, a 45-year-old drummer and cable television lineman, armed himself with an eight-foot long steel rod to protect the group. But nothing happened. The gangs that he saw breaking windows and smashing cars along the way let the Band pass.

Netanya Watts Hart, a coordinator for the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University, described the journey from her shattered New Orleans neighborhood on the afternoon of Aug. 31 in tones that almost sound like a parable from the Bible.

"We eventually walked out of the Ninth Ward in about five feet of water and we put all the children - 14 children - we put them in a flatboat along with a woman with one leg and walked a mile in the water," she said. "Then the water went down enough, and we walked about two more miles and all the children were holding hands, singing gospel songs two by two."

Ms. Hart and her husband and her two stepchildren and the woman with one leg and about 25 other people - relatives, neighbors and members of her church - were eventually taken to safety across the Mississippi River, not unlike Michael's mythic ferry across the Jordan, though in this case by a Coast Guard crew. And the group was all still together this week in a shelter near Houston.

Neliska Calloway, a 911 dispatcher with the New Orleans Police Department, said she has thought of the people she could not help. She worked for 48 hours straight through the height of the storm, taking call after call from desperate, frightened people. The call that has stayed in her mind came from a woman who said she was in labor with twins. She had fled to her attic and the waters were still rising.

"It was so emotional taking those phone calls, it was scary," Ms. Calloway said. "You can't imagine what somebody is going through, knowing that they're trapped in a house, surrounded by water and there's no where to go. I just talked to them as much as I could."

Ms. Calloway said that emergency workers reached the woman. She said she heard that one of the twins had died.

In some cases, though, people took command as the crisis descended. Michael Brown, 24, credited good leadership with getting the 25 members of his extended family out of New Orleans. Mr. Brown said his uncle, Jesse Brown II, became a general. Bags were ordered packed in 15 minutes. A rendezvous point was established in front of the house of Michael Brown's grandmother, Emma Brown.

Everything went according to plan except for one thing, the strapping down of their luggage on the roof of the car, which did not hold. Several suitcases of clothing blew off the as they drove out of the city, but there was no time to stop.

Charles Vigee, 46, was also a handy man to have around as the storm struck his house in New Orleans. When water started surging up over the porch and in through the front door, his inspiration was to take the doors off their hinges.

There were four people in the house, said Mr. Vigee, who works in construction, so his idea was to fashion a raft, one person per door, and lash them together. The lashing, with a cord ripped from the vacuum cleaner and other lengths of wire he could find in the watery mess, was wholly inadequate, he said. But the tipping point, literally, came with his mother-in-law, Carolyn Johnson, started to teeter on her door just down the street from their flooded home.

"Please Miss Carolyn, please don't fall off the door," Mr. Vigee said he remembered saying or at least thinking. "But she fell off the door."

Mr. Vigee, sitting in a Baton Rouge shelter surrounded by about 4,500 other people rendered homeless and destitute by the hurricane, laughed.

"But I was not laughing then," he said.

Serendipity intervened, he said, in what could have become a crisis. A person floating by on an air mattress helped pull Ms. Johnson back on her door, and eventually the family made it to a highway where they were all evacuated by helicopter.

And Michael Cryer and Elvera Boatner fell in love.

They met, indirectly, because the roof of Mr. Cryer's apartment building in New Orleans blew off. But they both speak about that now, interviewed sitting on their side-by-side cots in a downtown Baton Rouge shelter, as a small detail, even on some level a happy turn of events because of where things led from there.

Mr. Cryer, 29, a sheetrock worker, said he hid in his closet behind a mattress when water began coming in through the ceiling.

"When I came out, I was like, dang, the whole ceiling was gone," he said. "I could see the sky and rain was coming through."

So he went looking for an uncle who lived a mile or so away, who happened to live in Ms. Boatner's building.

They got out of the city together and have been together since.

"I love him," said Ms. Boatner, who is 24, "and I wouldn't have ever met him."

    For Storm Survivors, a Mosaic of Impressions, NYT, 11.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11katrina.html

 

 

 

 

 

Duty Binds Officers

Who Have Come to Help After Storm

 

September 11, 2005
The New York Times
By AL BAKER

 

NEW ORLEANS, La., Sept. 10 - On Toulouse and North Rampart Streets in the French Quarter, a Michigan police car nosed behind a New York City Police Department truck parked outside the New Orleans Police Department's First District.

"They're coming from Michigan and New York and everywhere," Aaron Wiltz, a patrolman with the New Orleans Police Department, said as he surveyed the scene. " It's just awesome. Just to see them sitting next to each other; if I had a word for it, I'd tell you, but it's just nice to see."

Almost two weeks after the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina, a hodgepodge army of law enforcement officers from around the country have converged on this city to help its besieged police force restore order. About 10,000 local, state and federal officers - from close-in locations in like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas and Georgia, and as far away as Illinois, New Mexico and California - are now patrolling the streets and helping the search-and-rescue efforts.

"The men and women who are here know their jobs and do it very well," said Capt. Marlon A. Defillo, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department. "A robbery in New Orleans is the same as a robbery in Los Angeles. All you are doing is changing the name of the locale."

For days after Hurricane Katrina blew in and tore the city apart, communications for Officer Wiltz and his colleagues came undone. Cellular antennas bent like bows or fell, causing cellphones to sputter and to go silent; and the roots of upended trees tore out underground wires, essentially reducing officers' police radios to hunks of plastic.

Some in the city exploited the breakdowns by forming gangs that spread violence. New Orleans experienced a crime wave, with reports of looting, rapes, assaults and the theft of entire inventories from gun and ammunition shops.

The New Orleans police force can normally muster 1,500 officers. But scores of them were off duty or cut off by the storm and flood waters. Police officials also said that a number of officers resigned or simply walked off their posts in the days after the storm. Last weekend, two officers committed suicide.

Offers of help from other law enforcement agencies came within hours of the storm, but it took days in some cases for the waters to recede enough to allow the reinforcements to reach the city.

Visiting officers set up makeshift camps and emergency operations centers in the parishes around New Orleans and beyond.

The 303-member contingent from New York City, which includes an assistant chief of police and three inspectors, have based their operations in an abandoned nursing home in Harahan, La., about 10 miles west of New Orleans.

On Wednesday, 25 vanloads of New York officers drove from Harahan into New Orleans and took up patrolling the French Quarter.

They joined a law enforcement contingent that not only includes the New Orleans police, officers from other in-state jurisdictions like Baton Rouge and thousands of out-of-state officers, but members of the National Guard.

The Guard has had an increasingly heavy presence in the city, said Captain Defillo, the spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department. At night, the troops walk in small groups in the Garden District or the French Quarter, dressed in camouflage, carrying weapons, or driving Humvees, giving the feel of a militarized zone.

Sgt. Mark G. Mix, a spokesman for the Louisiana State Police, said that about 4,000 troops from Louisiana and Arkansas were doing search and rescue and "a lot of police work."

There is a natural camaraderie between the officers. "That also holds true for the military," New York City's police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

When their beats cross, police officers and soldiers usually communicate with a wave, a smile or a quick greeting, as when a police cruiser passes a military checkpoint and the officers will say: "Stay safe," or "Good evening, gents."

But bringing separate police agencies into a single city under a unified command is not without its difficulties, several officials said. Early on, the task was like trying to join bits of naturally repelling mercury.

The officers' radio frequencies were incompatible. Their jargon was different, their cultures apart and the landscape foreign.

Ron Hernandez, a New York officer who usually works in Manhattan, said he was taken aback when he first arrived in Harahan to see that so many civilians with guns causally strapped to their hips.

But slowly, small groups of officers linked up and traded information. Sheriffs joined with sheriffs. State police officers gravitated toward one another and fire department officials joined other fire officials, said Sergeant Mix of the Louisiana State Police.

To help coordinate, Officer Jim Byrne, of the New York police department's communications division, brought hundreds of the department's radios to Louisiana. Within hours of arriving, he and his crew had linked an antenna to a mast on their temporary headquarters, a Winnebago-like truck, and mounted another antenna from a building in nearby Westwego to expand the coverage area. Phone lines from a vacant pizzeria were commandeered. A Harahan police radio was placed inside the truck to get dispatches from the local officers.

The patchwork of agencies is being held together by New Orleans police commanders at Harrah's Casino, which has been turned into a temporary command post. The casino houses the top officials from several agencies who meet each morning to deploy people.

"All the key individuals are in the room," said Captain Defillo, including Michael Holt, the special agent in charge of immigration, customs and enforcement for the federal Department of Homeland Security. "The left hand knows what the right hand knows."

Going forward, it is difficult to say how long each of the agencies will remain here, or whether others will arrive.

Police officials in New Orleans said the law enforcement agencies would have to make individual choices about long to stay and whether to rotate their officers in and out. But Captain Defillo said it appeared the agencies were here for an indefinite stay.

"We have got no word on them leaving, none," he said. "Everyone we have spoken with is prepared for the long haul."

    Duty Binds Officers Who Have Come to Help After Storm, NYT, 11.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11police.html

 

 

 

 

 

Water recedes in New Orleans;

death toll rises

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
11:03 PM ET
Reuters
By Kieran Murray and Jason Webb

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - As pumps slowly emptied New Orleans of the flood waters that turned it into a ghost town, the death count from Hurricane Katrina grew on Saturday, although to nowhere near what worried officials had feared.

In careful, time-consuming searches by boat and on foot, firefighters, soldiers and trained mortuary workers pried open doors and cut their way through walls across a nearly empty city where 450,000 people once lived.

They found bodies and, incredibly, survivors still clinging to life where they had been trapped since the storm came ashore on August 29, eventually breaking the levees that had held back Lake Pontchartrain.

President George W. Bush was to make his third and longest visit to the devastated region on Sunday, a two-day stay, the White House said. His administration's initial disaster response efforts have been criticized as too slow and narrow.

Louisiana officials raised the state's official death toll to 154. In Mississippi 211 were confirmed killed and there were scattered fatalities in Alabama and Florida. There had been fears Katrina killed thousands in New Orleans alone, especially in poor areas whose residents had no way to escape.

"I thought there would be thousands of dead but it seems it's a lot less," said Staff Sgt. Jason Geranen of the 82nd Airborne Division.

"We keep going because we are still finding some survivors. There was one yesterday, another one today," said Perry Peake, who heads a search and rescue team. "You can't just leave people behind."

With 74 pumps sucking water poisoned with chemicals, gasoline and sewage out of the historic below-sea level city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday said the draining should be completed by October 18, 40 days in all compared to the Corps' original estimates of 80 days.

Officials also announced that the New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport would reopen on September 13.

 

MAYOR MOVES FAMILY AWAY

But the extent of the long-term disruption the city faces was underscored by a New Orleans Times Picayune report that Mayor Ray Nagin had bought a house in Dallas and moved his family there. Nagin said he would return to New Orleans and make occasional visits to his family as he could.

Some still defied orders to evacuate, and police and soldiers were in general taking pains not to force the issue. Police have said forcible evictions would be a last resort.

On the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Bush urged Americans to recall the spirit that rallied the country four years earlier.

"This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "America will overcome this ordeal, and we will be stronger for it."

A Newsweek poll published on Saturday found Bush's approval rating at a lowest-ever 38 percent. The survey found 53 percent of Americans no longer trusted him to make correct decisions in a foreign or domestic crisis, against 45 percent who did.

The New York Times reported on its Web site that the Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched only seven of its 28 urban search and rescue teams to the area before the storm hit, despite an extraordinary warning from the National Hurricane Center that Katrina could cause "human suffering incredible by modern standards."

 

'HECK OF A JOB'

The Bush administration on Friday recalled FEMA head Michael Brown, handing his role in coordinating rescue and recovery to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard. Just a week ago, the president publicly told Brown he was doing a "heck of a job."

Allen met with local officials and told reporters he had discussed naming a single coordinator to harmonize recovery efforts by the many organizations involved.

"The water is receding. We are being helped by the pumps coming back on line," he said, but added many were still not functioning.

Vice President Dick Cheney visited an emergency management center in Austin, Texas, and said the government was finally gaining control of the situation. "I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise. We've got a lot of work ahead of us," he said.

There were more signs of recovery around New Orleans. Authorities said they would lift the mandatory evacuation order on Sunday for part of Plaquemines Parish, which covers territory in the Mississippi Delta south of the city.

Entergy Corp. said it had restored power to two thirds of its 1.1 million customers in Mississippi and Louisiana but said it may take months to restore power to all of New Orleans.

Some federal officials have put Katrina's cost at between $100 billion and $200 billion. Congress has approved $62.3 billion for hurricane relief sought by Bush, who said further requests will come.

There has been an outpouring of private donations, from across the United States and abroad. The American Red Cross, which has 36,000 volunteers in the field, said it had launched a drive to recruit 40,000 more volunteers.

Water recedes in New Orleans; death toll rises, R, 11.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?
    type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-11T030236Z_01_KNE077648_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Red Cross says

needs 40,000 Katrina volunteers

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
7:22 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - The American Red Cross said on Saturday it needs 40,000 additional volunteers in the next few weeks to replace worn-out relief workers helping Hurricane Katrina victims.

"This is a disaster of such scope and such significance that it is not going to go away in a few weeks or a few months," said Ken Degnan, public affairs specialist for the Red Cross. "We need more people."

The relief agency is sheltering 160,000 survivors, has provided 6 million meals and is operating 675 shelters in 23 U.S. states, an unprecedented effort that is taxing the 114-year-old organization, Degnan said.

The 36,000 Red Cross volunteers currently working the disaster will start rotating back to their homes beginning next week, so replacements are needed, he said.

The agency is asking recruits to contact their local Red Cross, which will provide training in such fields as shelter management, public health and working through government bureaucracies set up to assist disaster victims.

"It may seem like pretty simple to come into a shelter and help out," Degnan said. "But when you are dealing with large numbers of people in a congregate living facility you need to be trained."

    Red Cross says needs 40,000 Katrina volunteers, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T232114Z_01_KNE082590_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-VOLUNTEERS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

In Storm's Ruins,

a Rush to Rebuild

and Reopen for Business

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times

By JOHN M. BRODER

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 9 - Private contractors, guided by two former directors of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other well-connected lobbyists and consultants, are rushing to cash in on the unprecedented sums to be spent on Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction.

From global engineering and construction firms like the Fluor Corporation and Halliburton to local trash removal and road-building concerns, the private sector is poised to reap a windfall of business in the largest domestic rebuilding effort ever undertaken.

Normal federal contracting rules are largely suspended in the rush to help people displaced by the storm and reopen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts have already been let and billions more are to flow to the private sector in the weeks and months to come. Congress has already appropriated more than $62 billion for an effort that is projected to cost well over $100 billion.

Some experts warn that the crisis atmosphere and the open federal purse are a bonanza for lobbyists and private companies and are likely to lead to the contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have uncovered in post-war Iraq.

"They are throwing money out, they are shoveling it out the door," said James Albertine, a Washington lobbyist and past president of the American League of Lobbyists. "I'm sure every lobbyist's phone in Washington is ringing off the hook from his clients. Sixty-two billion dollars is a lot of money - and it's only a down payment."

Joe M. Allbaugh, a close friend of President Bush, the president's 2000 campaign manager and the FEMA director from 2001 to 2003, and James Lee Witt, an Arkansan close to former President Bill Clinton and a former FEMA director, are now high-priced consultants, and they have been offering their services to companies seeking or holding federal contracts in the post-hurricane gold rush.

Mr. Allbaugh said that he was helping private companies, including his clients, cut through federal red tape to speed provision of services and supplies to the storm-wracked region. Two of his major clients, Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, and The Shaw Group, already are at work on disaster response efforts.

Mr. Allbaugh said that he had played no role in helping Shaw or Kellogg get the work, insisting that help with federal contracts is not a service he offers to clients.

"A lot of people want to connect the dots, but the dots don't exist," he said in a telephone interview from Texas. "I don't do federal contracts, end of story."

However, one of the first things Shaw did after the storm was to invite Mr. Allbaugh to Louisiana, where he helped the company assemble its disaster team, giving advice on how to match the company's efforts to those of the government agencies it serves. He later helped other companies provide assistance.

Mr. Allbaugh said that he was not paid for these efforts and that he did not sign up any new clients in Louisiana. He did acknowledge that he suggested to UltraStrip Systems Inc., a client that markets water filtration products through a subsidiary, that it send representatives to Louisiana.

"Given the situation in the hospitals and nursing homes, I called them up," he said. "I said, 'You've got to get your unit down there, I'm sure they can put it to use.' "

Clients of Mr. Witt, who is advising Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana on managing the crisis, are also in position to profit. Among the clients are Nextel Communications, Whelen Engineering, a manufacturer of warning systems, and the Harris Corporation, a telecommunications equipment company.

Mr. Witt said in a brief interview here on Thursday that it is critical to move quickly after a disaster to restore basic services and that rather than speed such efforts, government often gets in the way.

"Time is of the essence here and we have to make sure it's fast and smooth and works well," he said at the Louisiana emergency operations center here. He said that FEMA had been bureaucratically and financially hobbled since it was absorbed by the new Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Witt's company, James Lee Witt Associates, also employs Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate, and Rodney Slater, a secretary of transportation in the Clinton administration. The firm's Web site says it provides "advice, counsel and assistance with strategic introductions primarily in the area of homeland security."

Mr. Witt did not respond to a request to comment specifically on the role of his clients in reconstruction.

One of the most immediate tasks after Hurricane Katrina hit was repair of the breaches in the New Orleans levees. Three companies - the Shaw Group, Kellogg Brown & Root and Boh Brothers Construction of New Orleans - have been awarded no-bid contracts by the Army Corps of Engineers to perform the restoration.

"After a disaster, we have certain authorities to execute contracts faster than we ordinarily would," Gene Pawlik, a Corps of Engineers spokesman in Baton Rouge, said on Friday. "There is a pot of money that Congress gives us that lets us respond quickly to an emergency."

The Shaw Group, based in Baton Rouge, is a $3 billion-a-year construction and engineering firm. It announced this week that it had received two contracts of up to $100 million each, one from FEMA, the other from the Corps of Engineers, to work on levees, pump water out of New Orleans and provide assistance with housing.

Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root's parent company, has a $500 million, five-year contract with the Navy to provide emergency repairs at military installations damaged in the hurricane. Under terms of the contract, Halliburton draws down on the money as it performs services for the military.

Halliburton is doing repair work at three Mississippi naval facilities, as well as at the Stennis Space Center. The company will also assess pump and infrastructure damage in New Orleans and construct a facility to support recovery efforts, it said.

To provide immediate housing in the region, FEMA says it suspended normal bidding rules in awarding contracts to the Shaw group and CH2MHill, based in Denver. Fluor, of Aliso Viejo, Calif.; Bechtel National Inc., of San Francisco; and Dewberry Technologies, of Fairfax, Va.; are doing similar work under longstanding FEMA contracts that allow the agency to turn to them during disasters.

John Corsi, a spokesman for CH2MHill, said that the contract could be the first of several and that it was awarded on a no-bid basis "because of unusual and compelling situation."

The sheer volume of the contracts and the speed in which they are being issued troubles some. The government is drawing down on Hurricane Katrina relief money at a rate of more than $500 million a day.

Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government spending watchdog group, said Katrina, like Iraq before it, would bring the greedy and the self-interested out of the woodwork.

"This is very painful," Ms. Brian said. "You are likely to see the equivalent of war profiteering - disaster profiteering."

Fluor already has identified some sites, including in Slidell, La., where the first 400 new homes will be installed, each of which can handle about five people, Mr. Tashjan said.

Bechtel, with $17.4 billion in annual revenues globally, is working under an informal agreement with no set payment terms, scope of work or designated total value. The company's zone is Mississippi, where it has started to install the first homes.

The company has 100 employees assigned to the task and it does not know how many will ultimately be working on it, said Howard Menaker, a Bechtel spokesman. It is also looking for subcontractors that can deliver portable water treatment, sewage and power plants, as well as mess halls, showers, even helicopters to move supplies.

Bechtel has a long pedigree in emergency response work, including helping to remove the remains of the twin towers in New York, building refugee camps in Kosovo in 1999 and doing safety assessment after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco. It is performing reconstruction work in Iraq under a large federal contract.

"Political contributions are not a factor," Mr. Menaker said. "It is the fact that we could get the job done."

 

Eric Lipton contributed reporting from Baton Rouge, La., for this article, Raymond Hernandez and Glen Justice from Washington, andLeslie Wayne and Ron Nixon from New York.

    In Storm's Ruins, a Rush to Rebuild and Reopen for Business, NYT, 10.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10contracts.html

 

 

 

 

 

Rescuers collect dead,

New Orleans slowly recovers

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
12:54 PM ET
Reuters
By Jason Webb

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Emergency workers collected the dead of New Orleans on Saturday and the official death toll rose slowly, boosting hopes Hurricane Katrina would claim far fewer lives than the thousands once feared.

As police and soldiers started to remove the bodies -- many in homes marked with paint to identify their presence when floodwaters were high -- President George W. Bush invoked the spirit that united the nation after the September 11 attacks.

"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life. This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"America will overcome this ordeal, and we will be stronger for it," he said on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington that killed some 2,700 people.

The Louisiana Dept. of Health and Hospitals raised the official hurricane death toll for the state to 154. In Mississippi, 211 people were confirmed dead. There was no updated official figure from Alabama, which also sustained considerable damage in the August 29 storm.

Some officials had warned of a death toll as high as 10,000 in the first chaotic days after the hurricane, which displaced around a million people.

Police and rescue teams, seeing corpses floating in New Orleans' flooded streets, feared many more would be discovered trapped in houses when the waters receded.

"There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps. ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000," Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans, said on Friday.

 

"MISERABLE FAILURE"

Bush, who successfully rallied the nation after the September 11 attacks, has faced criticism for the federal government's performance -- described as slow and inadequate -- following the hurricane.

Bush's job approval ratings have hit all-time lows and a Mississippi Democrat criticized the White House for failing to follow through on its promise after the New York attacks to ensure the country was prepared for a catastrophe.

"Like that day four Septembers ago, we once again find ourselves asking, 'How could this have happened?"' said Rep. Bennie Thompson. "The answer is painful, but it must be acknowledged: 'We simply were unprepared'.

"Mothers and grandmothers should not drown in nursing homes because help never arrived," he said.

Former Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer, a member of the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks, characterized the government's performance this time as "chaos and dysfunction. ... We have had our first post 9/11 test and we have miserably failed," he said on CNN.

Roemer said several key recommendations made by the commission to better prepare the country to handle major disasters, whether natural or man-made, had not been implemented.

The Bush administration on Friday recalled Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown to Washington, handing his role in coordinating rescue and recovery to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard. Just a week ago, the president publicly told Brown he was doing a "heck of a job."

The White House continued its string of up-close looks at the disaster area. Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to visit survivors in Texas on Saturday, and Bush was to travel to the region for a third time on Sunday.

 

SIGNS OF RECOVERY

There were more signs of recovery around New Orleans. Plaquemines Parish, which covers territory in the Mississippi Delta south of the city, said it would lift the mandatory evacuation order for part of the parish on Sunday.

President Benny Rousselle, in a message on the Parish's official Internet site, said residents returning should bring their own food and medicine. "Electricity is sporadic. You may or may not have electricity," the notice said.

Entergy Corp. reported it has restored power to two thirds of its 1.1 million customers in Mississippi and Louisiana but warned it might take months to bring power back to all of New Orleans, parts of which remained under several feet of fetid, polluted water.

The Environmental Protection Agency posted the results of tests on New Orleans flood waters conducted earlier this week showing dangerous and unhealthy levels of E. coli.

Looting and violence, which erupted in the days after the storm, were also under control.

"The security situation has stabilized in about the last 72 hours and has gotten better every day, said Lt. Col. Jacques Thibodeaux of the Louisiana National Guard."

A Louisiana policeman said crime at this point was "nil."

City business leaders were trying to organize a comeback. Executives aimed to reopen the French Quarter tourist mecca within 90 days and hold a scaled-down Mardi Gras carnival in late February.

Organizers of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival pledged to stage the 10-day event next spring either in its traditional fairgrounds location or "as close to New Orleans as possible," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

By Saturday, Norfolk Southern Railroad expected to complete repairs on its rail bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to reconnect New Orleans from the east for the first time since August 29, the U.S. Transportation Department said.

Some federal officials have put the cost of the storm at between $100 billion and $200 billion.

Congress has now approved $62.3 billion for hurricane relief sought by Bush, who warned further requests will come.

    Rescuers collect dead, New Orleans slowly recovers, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T165313Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Katrina hand-wringing

echoes earlier criticism

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
7:46 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Withering criticism in the United States over the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina may seem unprecedented, but much of the same hand-wringing has been seen before.

President George W. Bush, as well as local and state authorities, have been under attack for a week for being too slow to help people hit by the storm that swamped New Orleans and other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Similar questions over the speed and effectiveness of relief efforts followed Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, a storm that flattened parts of the Miami area and, until Katrina, was the costliest hurricane to strike the country.

"Where in the hell is the cavalry?" That plea from local emergency official Kate Hale days after Andrew hit land became emblematic of a sense that then-President George Bush, the current president's father, and his government had been slow to send in people and supplies.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin echoed that with a "desperate SOS" on September 1, three days after Katrina slammed ashore and two days after it was evident that his city was flooded out and thousands of people were stranded in danger and squalor.

A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office to the U.S. Congress, on "Improving the Nation's Response to Catastrophic Disasters" and issued the year after Andrew, raised many of the questions that have been heard again this week and probably will be for months to come.

 

DOUBTS OVER FEMA HEARD BEFORE

"The response to Hurricane Andrew raised doubts about whether FEMA is capable of responding to catastrophic disasters and whether it had learned any lessons from its responses to Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta earthquake," it said, referring to a hurricane and earthquake in 1989.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its director, Michael Brown, were under attack again this week, with critics of the Bush administration saying the agency had improved for a time but lost teeth when it was placed under the control of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff pulled Brown off on-the-ground relief operations.

Bush, while saying last week that the results of relief efforts were unacceptable, has called for a moratorium on the "blame game." But with layers of local, state and federal government involved in storm preparations and relief, fingers can be pointed in many different directions.

If some people wondered why Bush did not rush in troops to help stranded victims of Katrina, others say Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco could have been faster to order up her state's National Guard -- part-time soldiers who serve under state governors -- or question whether Nagin prepared the city well enough before the hurricane hit. Or they wonder why leaders at all levels were not on the same page.

The GAO report of 1993 found it was not clear who was responsible for what in dealing with Andrew.

"The response in South Florida suffered from miscommunication and confusion of roles and responsibilities at all levels of government -- which slowed the delivery of services vital to disaster victims."

The report also called for a strong presidential lead in times of disaster, saying "presidential leadership creates a powerful, meaningful perception that the federal government recognizes an event is catastrophic, is in control and is going to use every means necessary to meet the immediate mass care needs of disaster victims."

The current Bush White House has been criticized for appearing slow to grasp the magnitude of Katrina's impact. A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans believed Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts, and just 28 percent believed he did all he could.

    Post-Katrina hand-wringing echoes earlier criticism, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T114513Z_01_DIT042316_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-CRITICISM-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush seeks

to rekindle national unity on Katrina

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
10:25 AM ET
Reuters
By Jason Webb

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Emergency workers collected the dead of New Orleans on Saturday, as hopes rose that the toll from Hurricane Katrina would fall short of the calamity once feared.

As police and soldiers prepared to remove the bodies -- many in homes marked with paint to identify their presence when floodwaters were high -- President George W. Bush invoked the spirit that united the nation after the September 11 attacks in the face of this latest crisis.

"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life. This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"America will overcome this ordeal, and we will be stronger for it," he said on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington that killed some 2,700 people.

Bush, who successfully rallied the nation after those attacks, has faced criticism for the federal government's performance -- described as slow and inadequate -- following the August 29 hurricane.

"Chaos and dysfunction," said former Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer, a member of the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks.

"We have had our first post 9/11 test and we have miserably failed," Roemer said on CNN. He said several key recommendations made by the commission to better prepare the country to handle major disasters, whether natural or man-made, had not been implemented.

The Bush administration on Friday recalled Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown to Washington, handing his role in coordinating rescue and recovery to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Brown was widely criticized for FEMA's response to Katrina and faced new accusations of padding his resume. Critics charged he only got the job because he was a friend of a friend of Bush. Just a week ago, the president publicly told Brown he was doing a "heck of a job."

 

SEARCH FOR THE DEAD

The first week after the storm, rescue teams searched by boat and in military vehicles along New Orleans' flooded streets for the thousands of people who were reluctant or unwilling to leave the once vibrant city.

On Friday, New Orleans officials said rescuing the stranded and the helpless had ended and efforts were now turned entirely to finding bodies.

Until that is completed, they said, there was no hurry to oust those who have refused to quit the city despite an evacuation order and health concerns over the toxic waters surrounding them.

More than 300 deaths have been confirmed in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, though much higher totals have been feared. About a million people were displaced by the destruction.

"There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps. ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000," said Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans.

Thousands of evacuees who have called the Houston Astrodome home for the past week were expected to get apartments in Houston and other cities across the country soon.

More than 2,000 of the New Orleans refugees who fled the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina have already been placed in apartment complexes throughout Houston, and another 2,000 will be moving to new accommodations next week, said Guy Rankin, head of the Katrina Housing Task Force.

Some people who had refused to leave the city changed their minds once they were told they could take their pets with them. Rescue workers said they had retrieved hundreds of cats and dogs and reunited some with their owners.

Jean Brad Lacy left the city but came back. Sweeping leaves and dried sewage from the pavement outside a one-room home that had been knee-deep in water, he said he changed his mind when National Guard troops tried to put him on an airplane.

"I can't stand no heights," he said. "I love this place, this is my home."

 

SCALED-DOWN MARDI GRAS

City business leaders were trying to organize a comeback. Executives aimed to reopen the French Quarter tourist mecca within 90 days and hold a scaled-down Mardi Gras carnival in late February.

Organizers of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival pledged to stage the 10-day event next spring either in its traditional fairgrounds location or "as close to New Orleans as possible," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

By Saturday, Norfolk Southern Railroad expected to complete repairs on its rail bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to reconnect New Orleans from the east for the first time since August 29, the U.S. Transportation Department said.

Some federal officials have put the cost of the storm at between $100 billion and $200 billion.

Risk Management Solutions, a California company that assesses disasters for more than 400 insurance firms, trading companies and financial institutions, has raised its estimate of total hurricane damages to $125 billion and said it expects insured losses of $40 billion to $60 billion.

Congress has now approved $62.3 billion for hurricane relief sought by Bush, who warned further requests will come.

The White House continued its string of up-close looks at the disaster area. Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to visit survivors in Texas on Saturday, and Bush was to travel to the region for a third time on Sunday.

    Bush seeks to rekindle national unity on Katrina, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T142452Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering September 11 attacks,

Bush cites Katrina

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
10:09 AM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush vowed on Saturday Americans will overcome the ordeal presented by Hurricane Katrina as a weekend of September 11, 2001, remembrances was overshadowed by the U.S. Gulf Coast crisis.

Bush used his weekly radio address to remember the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, saying Americans were pulling together to help Katrina victims just as they did the victims of the hijacked-plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life. This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind," Bush said.

"America will overcome this ordeal, and we will be stronger for it," he said.

In the Katrina crisis Bush has been unable to recapture the same spirit of bipartisan unity he championed in the weeks and months after the September 11 attacks, a period in which he gained great credit for his leadership and his job approval ratings soared.

"Four years later, Americans remember the fears and uncertainty and confusion of that terrible morning," Bush said. "But above all, we remember the resolve of our nation to defend our freedom, rebuild a wounded city, and care for our neighbors in need."

While Democrats had rallied to help him after September 11, this time they have raised pointed questions about the slow federal response to the hurricane, demanded an independent investigation and criticized his handling of the crisis. Many Republicans have joined in criticisms of the response.

The Iraq war, fought over weapons of mass destruction that were never found, and Bush's attempts to link it to the overall war on terrorism begun after September 11 have contributed to a partisan split in Washington.

"As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, President Bush should admit that he wrongly invoked the tragedy of 9/11 to justify war with Iraq. The war has made terrorists even more determined to attack our country, and has made America less safe," said Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy in a statement on Friday.

He added, "Four years after 9/11, as the administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina makes clear, we're obviously not adequately prepared to deal with another devastating attack."

    Remembering September 11 attacks, Bush cites Katrina, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-10T140827Z_01_DIT050908_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-BUSH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans recovers its dead,

looks to rebuilding

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005 7:06 AM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The dead of New Orleans, uncounted and uncollected while the ruined city fought to save Hurricane Katrina's survivors, were the top concern on Saturday amid hope that their numbers may be fewer than once feared.

As police and soldiers prepared to resume removing the bodies -- many in homes marked with paint to identify their presence when floodwaters were high -- the political storm in Katrina's wake swept from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Washington.

After unrelenting criticism that U.S. President George W. Bush and his team had failed to respond quickly and adequately to the disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown was recalled to Washington on Friday. His role overseeing Katrina recovery efforts was handed to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The White House continued its string of up-close looks at the disaster area. Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to visit survivors in Texas on Saturday, and Bush was to travel to the region for a third time on Sunday.

New Orleans officials said rescuing the stranded and the helpless, an effort that began after the August 29 storm breached the city's levees, had ended and efforts were now turned entirely to finding bodies. Until that is completed, they said, there was no hurry to oust those who have refused to quit the city despite an evacuation order.

More than 300 deaths have been confirmed in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, though much higher totals have been feared. About a million people were displaced by the destruction.

"There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps. ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000," said Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans.

"The search for living individuals across the city has been conducted," he said on Friday. "What we are starting today ... is a recovery operation, a recovery operation to search by street, by grid, for the remains of any individuals who have passed away."

 

HOLDOUTS

It appeared that some people who had refused to leave the city -- once thought to number in the thousands -- were now more willing to depart. Provisions to take pets along may have changed some minds. Rescue workers said they had retrieved hundreds of cats and dogs and reunited some with their owners.

But there were holdouts.

On Bourbon Street, the general manager of Big Daddy's strip club was trying to reopen, as soon as water, electricity and dancers are available.

Manager Saint James said finding dancers "shouldn't be too hard. Everyone's going to come back in town and want to work."

Jean Brad Lacy left the city but came back. Sweeping leaves and dried sewage from the pavement outside a one-room home that had been knee-deep in water, he said he changed his mind when National Guard troops tried to put him on an airplane.

"I can't stand no heights," he said. "I love this place, this is my home."

City business leaders were trying to organize a comeback, The New York Times reported on Saturday. It said executives aimed to reopen the French Quarter tourist mecca within 90 days and hold a scaled-down Mardi Gras carnival in late February.

Organizers of the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival pledged to stage the 10-day event next spring either in its traditional fairgrounds location or "as close to New Orleans as possible," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

City attorney Sherry Landry said on Friday while there was power in the central business district, it was not able to support all buildings.

"It is our goal to restore power to the CBD (central business district) and clear all streets of debris and glass within the next seven days. After that we will establish a process for businesses to return to the city," Landry said.

By Saturday, Norfolk Southern Railroad expected to complete repairs on its rail bridge across Lake Pontchartrain to reconnect New Orleans from the east for the first time since August 29, the U.S. Transportation Department said.

But most of the ghostly city, which once boasted 450,000 residents, remains in tatters.

"Over in the western areas you don't see the standing water, you see the mud. It's every bit as nasty as the water, and it's going to take a long time to clean up but at least the water is gone," said chief warrant officer Robert Osborn, a pilot with the U.S. 1st Cavalry.

"Today we're seeing cars that are able to drive around. The causeway is open. Folks are out trying to put plastic on their roofs," he said.

The U.S. Postal Service resumed limited mail service in the three states affected by the storm.

 

COST SOARS

In the nearby town of Slidell survivors were numbed by the devastation.

Robert Quick, 41, rode out the storm with his wife and two small children but wound up retreating to the attic of their home as a tree crashed into the roof and his children watched their toys float away. He had no flood insurance.

"I rolled the dice. Everybody goes to the casino, I decided to roll it on flood insurance, you know, 1,200 bucks a year, this neighborhood never flooded," he said.

Some federal officials have put the cost of the storm at between $100 billion and $200 billion.

Risk Management Solutions, a California company that assesses disasters for more than 400 insurance firms, trading companies and financial institutions, has raised its estimate of total hurricane damages to $125 billion and said it expects insured losses of $40 billion to $60 billion.

Congress has now approved $62.3 billion for hurricane relief sought by Bush, who warned further requests will come.

The political fall-out over the response in the days after the storm was likely to continue.

In the U.S. Senate, four top Democrats urged Bush to fire Brown, amid new questions over his qualifications.

Whoever runs the agency, they said, "must inspire confidence and be able to coordinate hundreds of federal, state and local resources. Mr. Brown simply doesn't have the ability or the experience to oversee a coordinated federal response of this magnitude."

Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican who lost his Mississippi home in the storm, said Brown "has been acting like a private, instead of a general."

ABC News cited source as saying Brown was expected to be out of his post as head of the disaster agency soon.

The House Government Reform Committee is to hold a hearing on the widely criticized response to the disaster would begin on Thursday. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will open a similar hearing on Wednesday.

    New Orleans recovers its dead, looks to rebuilding, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T110600Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina Astrodome evacuees

to get new homes

 

Sat Sep 10, 2005
7:58 AM ET
Reuters

 

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The thousands of evacuees who have called the Houston Astrodome home for the past week are expected to get their own apartments in Houston and other cities across the country soon.

More than 2,000 of the New Orleans refugees who fled the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina have already been placed in apartment complexes throughout Houston, and another 2,000 will be moving to new accommodations next week, said Guy Rankin, head of the Katrina Housing Task Force.

Another 8,000 apartments are being readied for the more than 8,000 people still in the temporary Houston shelter, but the Task Force said emptying the stadium by the September 18 target date may not be possible.

"It's a tremendous chance and opportunity. That doesn't mean we're getting everyone out by next weekend," John Walsh, deputy chief of staff for Houston Mayor Bill White, told Reuters.

Offers of apartments have flowed in from Colorado, Florida, New York and Massachusetts, and Continental Airlines has said it would fly evacuees to their new homes, Rankin said.

The Task Force will pay the rent in the apartments for up to six months, and Houston's CenterPoint Energy is distributing vouchers to cover electricity bills for that period.

The Task Force is partially funded by city, county and state governments, but will also rely heavily on private donations sent to the Houston Katrina Relief Fund, Rankin said.

Most of the evacuees who have received apartments so far have been people over the age of 55 without medical disabilities, and the task force is now securing spots in assisted care facilities for those who need care.

"If you're 55 or better and by yourself, then you're out of the dome. They have homes tonight," Rankin said.

Rankin said most of the evacuees from devastated New Orleans seeking the apartments would likely become permanent residents in Houston.

That likelihood was echoed by many of the people who inhabited the Astrodome and Reliant Center complex on Friday.

"We're planning on staying out here," said Michael Williams, 49, a chef who was evacuated from New Orleans' Superdome last week.

The Task Force was also helping the evacuees to prepare to find employment to enable them to take over rent payments after the six months of paid rent runs out.

"The long-term goal is to give these people the life of their choice. We provide the platform," Walsh said.

    Katrina Astrodome evacuees to get new homes, R, 10.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T115722Z_01_DIT043070_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-EVACUEES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Casualty of Firestorm:

Outrage, Bush and FEMA Chief

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times

By ELISABETH BUMILLER

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - To Democrats, Republicans, local officials and Hurricane Katrina's victims, the question was not why, but what took so long?

Republicans had been pressing the White House for days to fire "Brownie," Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who had stunned many television viewers in admitting that he did not know until 24 hours after the first news reports that there was a swelling crowd of 25,000 people desperate for food and water at the New Orleans convention center.

Mr. Brown, who was removed from his Gulf Coast duties on Friday, though not from his post as FEMA's chief, is the first casualty of the political furor generated by the government's faltering response to the hurricane. With Democrats and Republicans caustically criticizing the performance of his agency, and with the White House under increasing attack for populating FEMA's top ranks with politically connected officials who lack disaster relief experience, Mr. Brown had become a symbol of President Bush's own hesitant response.

The president, long reluctant to fire subordinates, came to a belated recognition that his administration was in trouble for the way it had dealt with the disaster, many of his supporters say. One moment of realization occurred on Thursday of last week when an aide carried a news agency report from New Orleans into the Oval Office for him to see.

The report was about the evacuees at the convention center, some dying and some already dead. Mr. Bush had been briefed that morning by his homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was getting much of his information from Mr. Brown and was not aware of what was occurring there. The news account was the first that the president and his top advisers had heard not only of the conditions at the convention center but even that there were people there at all.

"He's not a screamer," a senior aide said of the president. But Mr. Bush, angry, directed the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to find out what was going on.

"The frustration throughout the week was getting good, reliable information," said the aide, who demanded anonymity so as not to be identified in disclosing inner workings of the White House. "Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult."

If Mr. Bush was upset with Mr. Brown at that point, he did not show it. When he traveled to the Gulf Coast the next day, he stood with him and, before the cameras, cheerfully said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

But the political pressures on Mr. Bush, and the anxiety at the White House, were only growing. Behind the president's public embrace of Mr. Brown was the realization within the administration that the director's ignorance about the evacuees had further inflamed the rage of the storm's poor, black victims and created an impression of a White House that did not care about their lives.

One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were "scared to death" of the reaction.

"If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?" said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove.

At the same time, news reports quickly appeared about Mr. Brown's qualifications for the job: he was a former commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association and for 30 years a friend of Joe M. Allbaugh, who managed Mr. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and was the administration's first FEMA director. Mr. Brown's credentials came to roost at the White House, where Mr. Bush faced angry accusations that the director's hiring had amounted to nothing more than cronyism.

Members of Congress quickly weighed in. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who was in New Orleans or Baton Rouge for more than a week after the hurricane swept ashore, said of Mr. Brown last Friday that "I have been telling him from the moment he arrived about the urgency of the situation" and "I just have to tell you that he had a difficult time understanding the enormity of the task before us."

Members of Mr. Bush's party also were angry. Last week House Republicans pressed the White House to fire Mr. Brown. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi pulled the president aside for a private meeting on Monday in Poplarville, Miss., to ask him to intervene personally to untangle FEMA red tape. Mr. Lott, exasperated, told Mr. Bush that he needed to press the agency to send the state 46,000 trailers, promised for days as temporary housing for hurricane victims.

For a time, Mr. Lott did not directly criticize Mr. Brown or the federal response in public. "My mama didn't raise no idiot," he joked on Capitol Hill last week. "I ain't going to bite the hand that's trying to save me."

But on Friday, with Mr. Brown's tenure in the relief role at an end, the senator issued a statement that made clear his views, and those of many others.

"Something needed to happen," Mr. Lott's statement said. "Michael Brown has been acting like a private instead of a general. When you're in the middle of a disaster, you can't stop to check the legal niceties or to review FEMA regulations before deciding to help Mississippians knocked flat on their backs."

Mr. Bush, characteristically, did not officially dismiss Mr. Brown, instead calling him back to Washington to run FEMA while a crisis-tested Coast Guard commander, Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, was given oversight of the relief effort. The take-charge Admiral Allen, who commanded the Coast Guard's response up and down the Atlantic Seaboard after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, immediately appeared on television as the public face of the administration's response.

In Baton Rouge, Mr. Brown appeared briefly at Mr. Chertoff's side before heading back to the capital, where, the secretary said, the director was needed for potential disasters.

"We've got tropical storms and hurricanes brewing in the ocean," Mr. Chertoff said.

    Casualty of Firestorm: Outrage, Bush and FEMA Chief, NYT, 10.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10crisis.html

 

 

 

 

 

Director of FEMA

Stripped of Role as Relief Leader

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON
and ANNE E. KORNBLUT

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Under intense pressure to improve its response to Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration on Friday abruptly removed the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael D. Brown, from oversight of the post-storm relief effort, and replaced him with Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard.

Mr. Brown, who was hailed by President Bush last week for doing "a heck of a job" in responding to the disaster, was stripped of his duties after days in which the White House was pressed by lawmakers in both parties to dismiss him for poor performance.

The action also came hours after a report on Time magazine's Web site that Mr. Brown had inflated his résumé set off a new round of questions about his qualifications. Newsday also reported inconsistencies in his résumé.

Admiral Allen, a career Coast Guard officer who had helped manage the emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, had been appointed on Monday to be Mr. Brown's special deputy for hurricane relief. In his new role, he will be what Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, described as "the principal federal official overseeing the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery effort in the field."

Shortly before Mr. Chertoff spoke, officials in New Orleans reported that an initial sweep of the city had found far fewer bodies than many had expected in the wake of the devastating storm. Although the officials gave no estimate of the final toll, the first widespread search for bodies raised hopes that the final count could be much lower than the 10,000 the mayor and others have predicted.

The decision to remove Mr. Brown came as the entire federal government continued to have widespread and persistent trouble with its efforts to provide aid to evacuees and begin the cleanup in earnest. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees, now safe from immediate danger, faced a second wave of frustration over prolonged delays in finding assistance and navigating a maze of federal and local programs.

In Houston, local officials complained that FEMA's computer system kept crashing. In Ocean Springs, Miss., officials started turning people away from a FEMA disaster recovery center three hours before closing time, saying they were overwhelmed.

"There is so much chaos and dysfunction going on with the federal government that Dallas can't wait any longer for federal help," said Mayor Laura Miller of Dallas.

Mr. Chertoff, with Mr. Brown standing gamely if uncomfortably at his side at a news conference in Baton Rouge, portrayed the shift as his decision and one driven by the start of a new phase of the recovery. Mr. Brown, he said, had "done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," and would retain his job as director of the agency. But the move left little doubt that Mr. Bush, who is usually loath to resort to public dismissals of administration staff members, wanted a change in leadership as he sought to erase the widespread impression that his administration had failed to respond quickly and aggressively enough to a crisis of immense proportions. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush backed the decision.

The White House said on Friday that Mr. Bush would travel to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday and Monday, his third trip to the region since the storm. In Washington on Friday, Mr. Bush cited the fourth anniversary on Sunday of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in describing the heroism of police, firefighters and other first responders in other disasters, like Hurricane Katrina.

"In these difficult days, we have again seen the great strength and character and resolve of America," Mr. Bush said at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House honoring first responders who were killed on Sept. 11. "And we will continue to work to help the people who are struggling."

A senior administration official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Chertoff, whose department includes FEMA, told Mr. Bush on Wednesday that he was thinking of moving Mr. Brown aside and replacing him with Admiral Allen.

The official said Mr. Chertoff informed Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, on Thursday evening that he had decided to make the change and that Mr. Card then informed the president.

A Republican with close ties to the White House, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Bush had made clear that he wanted a change, a view reinforced by Vice President Dick Cheney's fact-finding trip to Mississippi and Louisiana on Thursday. Mr. Cheney, the Republican said, came back with a progress report that was critical of Mr. Brown's management.

Admiral Allen told reporters in Baton Rouge that he had been informed of his new role by Mr. Chertoff at 10 a.m. He said that search and rescue operations remained the priority, but that he would be spending more time on how to begin reconstituting communities decimated and dispersed by the storm.

FEMA said Mr. Brown would not respond to a request for an interview. But Mr. Brown told The Associated Press:

"I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep. And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims."

FEMA's relief operations have been under fire for more than a week, bearing the brunt of the blame for leaving thousands of people stranded in New Orleans without food, water, security or medical help.

The problems led to considerable frustration on Friday as evacuees and state and local officials struggled to cope.

In Mississippi, some victims of the storm said they had called FEMA's disaster assistance line but were told to check the Internet or wait for postal service, which is not operating.

"I couldn't imagine people in Louisiana climbing down from a roof, finding a phone and being told to get on the Internet," said a 41-year-old schoolteacher from Ocean Springs who declined to give her name.

In Houston, Mayor Bill White sought local expertise to set up satellite trucks with FEMA specifications to improve the agency's capacity to operate its computers in the area. FEMA representatives said they welcomed the offer and assured Houston officials that costs associated with the assistance would be federally reimbursed.

Mayor Miller said Dallas would start its own relief fund to help finance the removal of 1,500 evacuees from downtown shelters into apartments over the next 10 days.

"Where is FEMA national?" she said. "We keep being told that help is coming and so far we're not getting the help. So we will do what the government can't do. We will take the 1,500 people sleeping on cots and air mattresses and move them into apartments with beds and furniture and sheets and towels."

In Washington, lawmakers continued to debate new reconstruction measures of their own. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, called for a Tennessee Valley Authority-style entity to oversee the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Carl Hulse in Washington; Ralph Blumenthal and Bill Dawson in Houston; Michael Cooper in Gulfport, Miss.; Michael Luo in Baton Rouge, La.; Motoko Rich in New York; and Campbell Robertson in Ocean Springs, Miss.

    Director of FEMA Stripped of Role as Relief Leader, NYT, 10.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10capital.html

 

 

 

 

 


Commander Accustomed

to Scrutiny and Crises

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times

By THOM SHANKER

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who has been put in charge of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, is known as a steady Coast Guard commander already tested by major crises, including some that drew intense public scrutiny.

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he commanded the Coast Guard response up and down the Atlantic Seaboard, moving ships and personnel to patrol the waters and secure the ports.

Even before that national crisis, Admiral Allen was no stranger to the bright light of public attention. In November 1999, his Thanksgiving Day was interrupted by a phone call to his headquarters in Miami that reported that a raft had been found a few miles offshore. Twelve people escaping from Cuba on the raft had drowned, but a 5-year-old, Elián González, was clinging to an inner tube and to life.

The González case set into motion a clash between Cuban-Americans and the United States government over the boy's fate.

The admiral's skills at the nexus of government and public opinion had been tested before, when he helped resolve confrontations with Cuban-Americans in southern Florida after Coast Guard petty officers used a fire hose and pepper spray to subdue uncooperative Cuban who had fled Cuba by boat and were trying to come ashore in the United States.

"What he brings to the new position is an attribute you're going to see more and more out of the Coast Guard, an ability to operate at the interagency level," said Rear Adm. Joseph L. Nimmich, director of the Coast Guard Maritime Domain Awareness Program, which tracks commercial and recreational vessels.

"He will focus on that unity of effort from all the players," said Admiral Nimmich, who has worked with Admiral Allen for 18 years. "He is a communicator. You're going to see him out speaking with all the local communities in the area of this natural disaster."

Since 2002, Admiral Allen has been chief of staff of the Coast Guard, an agency that daily brings military-style assets to support the civilian population and domestic security in activities like search and rescue, environmental cleanups, maritime safety and law enforcement.

All those duties now will come into play, as Admiral Allen was promoted from deputy for federal hurricane relief to senior officer responsible for the Gulf Coast mission.

He takes over from Michael D. Brown, who returns to Washington retaining his title of director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but stripped of on-the-spot hurricane duties after widespread criticism of the federal effort.

Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who heads the Senate's homeland security panel, praised the decision to replace Mr. Brown with Admiral Allen.

"Vice Adm. Thad Allen is a strong choice," Ms. Collins. said. "He is a highly respected leader who should be very effective in improving the coordination of assistance for the hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families who were affected by the hurricane."

Lt. Cmdr. Dana Reid, flag aide to Admiral Allen from June 2000 to June 2001, described her former boss as "a steady force in turbulence."

"He is a rock," Commander Reid, the Coast Guard chief in Chincoteague, Va., said.

"The core is his personality and his character," she added. "And his emphasis is all about people and doing the right things just right, He is incredibly accessible to people at every level of our organization. He can talk to the seamen and the next minute turn around and talk to an admiral."

Thad William Allen was born on Jan. 16, 1949, in Tucson. More than 30 years ago, he chose coastal waters as home and office, graduating in 1971 from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

He has a master's in public administration from George Washington University and an M.S. from the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. He and his wife, the former Pamela A. Hess, an assistant dean at the George Mason University School of Management, live in Burke, Va. They have three children and two grandchildren.

    Commander Accustomed to Scrutiny and Crises, NYT, 10.9.2005,
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10allen.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some business leaders want the French Quarter,

under military patrol Friday, to reopen within 90 days.

 

Chang W. Lee/The New York Time

New Orleans Executives Plan Revival

NYT        10.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/business/10plan.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Executives Plan Revival

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times
By GARY RIVLIN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 9 - The New Orleans business establishment-in-exile has set up a beachhead in a government annex here, across the street from the state Capitol. From here, organizations like the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau have begun to plot the rebirth of the city.

In the cramped offices and hallways of this building, called the Capitol Annex, and continuing into the evening at bars and restaurants around Baton Rouge, New Orleans's business leaders and power brokers are concocting big plans, the most important being reopening the French Quarter within 90 days.

Also under discussion are plans to stage a scaled-down Mardi Gras at the end of February and to lobby for one of the 2008 presidential nominating conventions and perhaps the next available Super Bowl.

So far, those conversations have been taking place largely without the participation of one central player: the city. "They're still in emergency mode and not yet thinking strategically," said J. Stephen Perry, the chief executive of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We're thinking strategically."

The hurdles are formidable when so much of the city is still flooded and some are predicting it could be six months to a year before New Orleans is once again habitable. But the power brokers are not deterred.

For instance, F. Patrick Quinn III, who owns and operates 10 hotels in and around the French Quarter, has set up shop temporarily at the office of a friend and business associate in Baton Rouge so he can make frequent trips to his hotels, where guests - from journalists to employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - are now staying.

Emergency generators have allowed Mr. Quinn to provide limited power to his guests, and he has bused in workers from Texas and Florida. "We'll be up and running whenever the city is ready," Mr. Quinn said.

Mr. Perry said, "What people miss, watching the TV and all, is that the core of the city - the French Quarter, the warehouse district and the central business district - is dry." Power should be restored to the central city within three weeks, he said, and the water and sewer systems will be functional not long after that. Some parts of the city are already getting power.

And, of course, it is the French Quarter and nearby areas that draw virtually all the visitors to New Orleans, where tourism is king. The industry brings in some $7 billion to $8 billion a year, according to the convention bureau, with most of that spent in the French Quarter, the central business district and the warehouse district - precisely those areas that were least affected by the flooding.

"We're walking a fine line here," said Bill Hines, the managing partner at Jones Walker, a leading New Orleans-based corporate law firm that moved more than 100 of its lawyers into a satellite office here.

"People in Baton Rouge are looking at me funny, as if talking about bringing back music, or Mardi Gras, or the arts or football is frivolous when we're in the midst of this kind of human tragedy. But I think New Yorkers can relate," said Mr. Hines, a native of New Orleans.

"Just as it was important that Broadway not remain in the dark after Sept. 11, it's important that we start thinking about the future despite all the very depressing news around us."

Alden J. McDonald Jr., chairman of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, is more subdued than some of his business brethren. He is chief executive of the Liberty Bank and Trust Company, the third-largest black-owned bank in the United States. Mr. McDonald, who is working out of one of his bank's Baton Rouge branches, said his customer base, unlike those in the tourist business, was hit hard and at least half his branches were badly damaged by water.

Yet he, too, is starting to have some of the same conversation. "We're talking among ourselves, some banking officials, others here in town," he said. "The idea is we should get on the same page so that we're moving in the same direction. I suspect that over the next week to 10 days there'll be a lot more momentum behind these conversations."

Mr. McDonald said that on Monday he would be reopening several of his bank's branches in Jefferson Parish.

The business community, at first scattered throughout Louisiana and nearby states in the week after the storm, sorely needed a central command - and they fell into one, courtesy of the state's lieutenant governor, Mitchell J. Landrieu, the son of the former mayor, Moon Landrieu, and the brother of Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat who represents Louisiana in the United States Senate.

On the morning the hurricane first hit, Mr. Perry headed north and west to his mother's home in Baton Rouge, with no idea where he would work. Thinking he would be gone for two days at most, he brought only two dress shirts with him.

By that Thursday, Mr. Landrieu, whom Mr. Perry knew from his days as chief of staff to a former governor, granted him and his organization a small suite of offices down the hall from his own, on the top floor of a handsome, five-story, 1930's-era building. Others also took Mr. Landrieu up on his hospitality.

Now, when Mr. Perry needs to talk with his counterpart at the New Orleans hotel association, he walks downstairs to the third floor. The mayor's office of economic development is on the second floor. The director of Greater New Orleans Inc., a private development organization that represents many of the city's largest corporations, had called a first-floor conference room home base until moving on Friday to more spacious quarters.

On Thursday night, Mr. Perry dined at Gino's, a popular Italian restaurant here thick with well-connected lawyers and other movers and shakers who call New Orleans home.

Such conversations are only preliminary, to be sure. It is only in the last few days that most within the business establishment had an operating cellphone or working e-mail address. Besides, more immediate concerns distracted all but the most focused executives in the first week after the storm, like helping displaced workers find a home, to resettling their own families.

So it has been just in the last few days that the city's power brokers have started planning the comeback. Mr. Hines, the lawyer, had been busy helping his son, a student at Tulane University, apply to other colleges while helping his wife move to Houston, where his two daughters will attend Catholic school. It was not until midweek, he said, that he received an e-mail message making the rounds of top chief executives suggesting a meeting in either Baton Rouge or Dallas to "start talking about the future."

That meeting will take place this weekend in Dallas, where the mayor has temporarily set up base. Yesterday, Mr. Hines and other corporate leaders were making plans to attend.

"Things have really started to turn in the last 24 hours," said Mr. Hines, when reached by phone at his temporary offices on Thursday.

It is in Baton Rouge, a 90-minute drive from New Orleans, that the New Orleans operation of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, a Fortune 500 company, has set up temporary headquarters. Baton Rouge is where a large portion of New Orleans's bankers and lawyers have set up shop. And it is where the Marriott Corporation, which operated the most hotel rooms in New Orleans, has set up a 125-employee command center to handle everything from tracking down workers to assessing what needs to be done to reopen its 15 New Orleans-area properties as quickly as possible.

Fueling the buzz of optimism that has begun to course through Baton Rouge is the growing awareness that the French Quarter, which drives the New Orleans economy, survived with only moderate damage. Eight of Mr. Quinn's 10 properties are in very good shape, he said, and the 2 others suffered only modest damage.

"If the French Quarter had gone down, had it been destroyed from an infrastructure perspective, then the foundation for an economic recovery would have been taken out," he said. "Then the people of New Orleans who have gone through this diaspora almost would have no way to go home. There would have been no jobs."

Instead, Mr. Perry and others imagine that the French Quarter will be ready for tourists within 90 days, and the city's convention center will be ready to welcome conventiongoers within six months.

The French Quarter, he said, could prove "key to the city's rebirth; with jobs, there'll be money to start rebuilding houses and start rebuilding the communities."

Gordon Stevens owns three cafes in the French Quarter called Café Beignet. "I plan on opening up before the first of the year, absolutely," Mr. Stevens said. Mr. Stevens also operates a pair of riverboats that, for the time being, are docked in Baton Rouge.

Mr. Perry said he is hearing that same confidence from any number of business operators that cater to tourists.

"We will actually be up and functioning before the city is able to receive visitors again," he said. The X factor, Mr. Perry and others said, will be the status of the water and sewage systems, and more mundane matters like the availability of worker to do everything from drive cabs to tend bars.

Mark Drennan, the chief executive of Greater New Orleans Inc., and whose temporary office is in the Capitol Annex, is similarly optimistic. Mr. Drennan and his 20 staff members - at least those in a position to pitch in - have started working with the Louisiana Congressional delegation on the outlines of a business reorganization plan for the city.

"We're looking to raise money to hire the most talented consultants and urban planning people out there to help us rebuild," Mr. Drennan said.

    New Orleans Executives Plan Revival, NYT, 10.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/business/10plan.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Executives Plan Revival        NYT        10.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/business/10plan.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


'But I Just Want to Know,

Where's My Baby?'

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times

By SUSAN SAULNY

 

HOUSTON, Sept. 9 - If she didn't have younger siblings to watch and three of her own small children depending on her, Lakerisha Boyd could do what she feels like doing here in an old motel near the Astrodome.

She could cry for her youngest child, Torry Lee, who is still missing almost two weeks after the storm.

But even tears are a luxury that Ms. Boyd cannot afford during her grueling vigil of praying and hoping and waiting. She has worked the Internet, the telephones and her feet to the point of exhaustion looking for the 16-month-old who was with his grandmother just before Hurricane Katrina swept into New Orleans.

On Friday, 11 days after the storm, grandmother and grandchild were still missing.

"I keep telling myself it's going to be all right," said Ms. Boyd, breathing deeply to control frayed nerves and turning her face away from her room, where 11 people are sharing two beds. "I can't start crying because of the other children. I can't break down. I'm all they've got right now. But I just want to know, where's my baby?"

Ms. Boyd, 23, is certainly not alone in her sorrowful quest. Officials said there was no way at this point to estimate how many children have been severed from families, but early figures suggest the tally could be in the thousands.

Scores of children have been found wandering alone in search of lost adults. On Thursday and Friday alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 500 new cases of parents looking for children or vice versa, bringing the number of reports in its Hurricane Katrina database to 1,500.

Of the center's cases, 258 have been successfully resolved.

Some of the parents have told the group that when they were evacuating the city, they placed their children on earlier buses in the mistaken belief that when they got seats on a later bus, the whole family would end up in the same place.

"This is a massive problem and the numbers are growing," said Ernie Allen, the president of the national center. "We know there will not be a positive ending in some of these cases. We hope the number is as small as possible. Meanwhile, we're working under the assumption that these children are out there."

Other charities and news organizations are compiling their own statistics and creating Web sites to help reunite families.

Louisiana officials urged the dozens of impromptu shelters that have popped up across the country to register with the state so that officials could begin to compile a database of all the people in them.

There are some 54,000 people in 240 shelters that are already registered, said Terri Ricks, undersecretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services, but the state still does not have a list of who is in those shelters.

The difficulties of the mission are almost impossible to overstate. In some cases, the children who have been found are too young to give their names or are too traumatized to speak, even if they are of age to talk. In other cases, investigators have no photographs of the children to circulate because they were left behind in the floods.

The story of how Edwina Foster, 11, and her brother Foster Edward, 9, lost their mother is typical. Family members were wading through waist-high water in New Orleans when they noticed trucks passing on an elevated part of Interstate 10. They raced to an on ramp, and a pickup truck already crammed with 16 people stopped.

The children's mother, Judy Foster, begged the passengers to make room for Edwina and Foster. According to a cousin, Carisa Carsice, who was with the group, Ms. Foster told the people on the truck: "Please watch them until we get to the Superdome. Please! Take the kids first, and I'll get on the next one."

Edwina said Thursday that when the truck took off, "We were going so fast and I felt like I wanted to jump off that truck to get back to her. But when we stopped, I looked down and there was too much water."

Edwina and Foster ended up in Houston, and, in a larger sense, were among the lucky ones. After a week of searching, the authorities located their mother at a shelter in Dallas, and plans were made on Friday to reunite the family.

In an area for lost children at the Reliant Center, next to the Astrodome, Edwina and Foster played with Queneisha White, 14. Queneisha fled rising waters in downtown New Orleans with a few teenage friends after her grandmother, with whom she lived, refused to leave her apartment in the Iberville Housing Project.

" I was so scared," Queneisha said. "I said, 'Grandma, lets go!' But she said she wanted to stay with her house. Well, I was scared and I didn't want to drown."

The group of friends walked to Algiers Point, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, and boarded buses to the Astrodome. Meanwhile, Queneisha's mother was being evacuated to Corpus Christi, Tex. Her grandmother's whereabouts remain unknown.

Late Thursday, Lee Reed, one of the men who had been working on Queneisha's case for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children used his own money to buy her a bus ticket to Corpus Christi.

"I couldn't find a way to get her down there, so I bought her a ticket myself," Mr. Reed said. "That's one of our concerns of the moment once we match people, not having the transportation to connect them. It's tragic."

Since arriving in Houston, Ms. Boyd, the woman searching for 16-month-old Torry Lee, said she that had received numerous offers for housing in other states, but that she did not want to leave the area without her whole family.

"We could be in a house right now, but I don't want to leave without my son," she said. "He was just a good baby. That's all I can say about him. A good baby."

    'But I Just Want to Know, Where's My Baby?', NYT, 10.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10children.html

 

 

 

 

 

In New Orleans as It Did in New York,

X Marks the Pain

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times

By DAN BARRY
NEW ORLEANS

 

A CRUDE symbol has surfaced in New Orleans to displace for now the fleur-de-lis, the crescent and the string of beads. It is a large X sprayed with neon-orange paint onto the emptied homes, the violated stores - even the city buses that litter streets like giant discarded milk cartons.

The fleur-de-lis reflects the enduring French influence on life here. The crescent symbolizes the bend in the nurturing Mississippi River. The beads evoke Mardi Gras, though these days they dangle from trees like gaudy nooses. And now, scrawled across all of that, a large X the color of Halloween: the post-catastrophe symbol used by search-and-rescue units to signal that the space inside has been checked for signs of life or the remains of death.

On Tuesday - was it Tuesday? - a task force from Texas, armed with guns and spray cans, decorated the Bywater section here with the macabre graffiti. At the top of the X, the date (9/6); to the left, the unit that conducted the search (TXTF); to the right, the number of hazards, structural and otherwise, within (0); and at the bottom, the number of dead (0).

The symbol has haunting resonance for those who walked the gray-powdered streets of Lower Manhattan in the first days after 9/11. Four years later nearly to the day, you notice that X on a deserted storefront on St. Claude Avenue here; you take comfort in seeing zeroes; and in a finger's snap you are back there on Vesey Street, or Liberty, or Church. What's more, the skies over southern Louisiana have been a baby blue the last few days, as they were over New York on that Tuesday morning.

So many images here set off dormant memories. The National Guard encampment in Audubon Park recalls the National Guard encampment in Battery Park, where a thunderstorm one night had people imagining another attack. The whiff of rotting food in a market on St. Charles Avenue brings back the pungency of that dusty still-life display of food rotting in the Amish Market on Washington Street. The fear of contaminated water now; the fear of contaminated air then.

A disturbing question comes too quickly to the mind. Which was worse: the attacks of Sept. 11 or the attack of Hurricane Katrina?

The question reflects our strange desire to quantify disaster. Any time a jetliner crashes - in Lockerbie, outside Pittsburgh, off the Moriches - the news media rush to point out its standing in terms of the number killed, as though measuring its worthiness for some sorrowful hall of fame. Sometimes newspapers will even publish an accompanying graph: Five Deadliest Plane Crashes.

From the acrid-smelling streets of this fresh horror, near the fourth anniversary of another horror - still fresh in its own way - such calculus seems fruitless, inappropriate and akin to comparing a wounded apple to an injured orange. They are distinct in their own awful ways.

The hurricane was a natural disaster. The disaster of 9/11 was madman-made. The hurricane exploded across hundreds of miles, devastating cities, towns and obscure places that many people here barely knew of; Happy Jack, for one. The jetliners that became bombs on 9/11 devastated a corner of Manhattan, and brought down two of the most famous buildings in the world.

On and on the distinctions go: 9/11's fire to the hurricane's water; people dying at work and people drowning at home; congregations mourning in places of worship and congregations mourning for places of worship that are now inaccessible, under water, destroyed.

Rather than wasting energy and emotion on that awkward question of which is worse, those profoundly affected by 9/11 might consider what now forever binds the New Orleans of 2005 to other American cities: the Johnstown of 1889; the Galveston of 1900; the San Francisco of 1906; the Oklahoma City of 1995; the New York of 2001.

THE overwhelming loss of life, of course, and the crippling tolls to the economy, to the infrastructure, to the community's sense of self. But more than that: the denial of that basic, sacred need to claim and bury the dead. Four years have passed, and 1,152 of the 2,749 victims of 9/11 have not been identified. Two weeks have passed, and who knows how many bodies still bob in dark waters.

Which is worse? Let the question go.

Just know that emergency telephone numbers and wrenching news updates trickle across the television screens here, just as they did then. That volunteers from across the country are here to help out, just as they did then. That people here vow to rebuild, just as we did then.

One night four years ago, a city sanitation worker started sweeping the debris of chaos from Church Street. And one afternoon this week, a shopkeeper on deserted Royal Street did the same.

    In New Orleans as It Did in New York, X Marks the Pain, NYT, 10.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/nyregion/10about.html

 

 

 

 

 

Death Toll in New Orleans

May Be Lower Than First Feared

 

September 10, 2005
The New York Times
By SEWELL CHAN
and MICHAEL LUO

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 9 - The first organized effort to scour the city for its dead has turned up far fewer bodies than expected, officials said Friday. That raised hopes that the death toll from Hurricane Katrina might be much lower than the 10,000 that the mayor and others had predicted.

As the floodwater continued to recede, police officers, National Guard members and members of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army began to canvass street to street and house to house in the first phase of a hunt to find, remove and identify the dead.

"There's some encouragement in what we found in the initial sweeps," Col. Terry J. Ebbert, the city's director of homeland security, said. "The numbers so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000."

The specter of a five-figure toll was raised this week, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered 25,000 body bags flown to a temporary morgue in St. Gabriel. The official state death count stood at 118. Mississippi reported 211.

Colonel Ebbert, who would not provide figures for New Orleans, said it would take two weeks before the search for the dead here could yield a reliable assessment.

As they looked for bodies, the officers and troops began to retrace steps that they had walked last week and this week as they searched primarily for the living, to try to persuade them to leave the city. Colonel Ebbert said the holdouts now numbered fewer than 5,000. About 484,000 people lived in the city before the hurricane struck.

On Friday, city officials continued to hold off on their threat to use force to remove people who refused to leave, calling it a last resort.

"We're trying our best to persuasively negotiate, and we are not using force at this time," City Attorney Sherry Landry said.

In Houston, thousands of displaced New Orleans residents lined up as FEMA officials began to hand out the $2,000 debit cards that they had promised to help evacuees with immediate expenses.

"It was tiresome, but it was worth it," said Dwayne Holmes, 20, who said he waited about two and a half hours outside the shelter complex where he and his family have been living since they fled the Superdome in New Orleans.

Each household that registered with the agency was allowed one card, which can be used at A.T.M.'s. Officials of FEMA estimated that 5,000 cards were handed out in Houston, and said the distribution would continue on Saturday. The agency's liaison for the Houston area, Tom Costello, said distribution also began on Friday at shelters in Austin, Dallas and other cities in Texas.

Despite the long lines that snaked inside and outside the Astrodome, people chatted amiably, and food was provided. There was none of the chaos and confusion that arose on Thursday, when premature news reports of the distribution prompted thousands of evacuees to converge on the complex, only to be locked out by officials for nearly an hour.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans went to Dallas, touring shelters and visiting family members who had evacuated there. He joined Dallas leaders in announcing a citywide relief fund and denouncing the federal emergency agency for what they called its continuing slow response to the crisis.

"It's a doggone shame that these survivors had to wait in the hot sun for FEMA yesterday, and FEMA didn't arrive," Mr. Nagin said.

Perhaps the most promising development to emerge was the first detailed timetable for draining New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers said a new computer model showed that all areas of the city would be pumped dry by Oct. 18, about 40 days from the estimate.

The corps had previously said only that the work would take 24 to 80 days. And for the first time since the hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast, government and utility officials offered a time frame for restoring electricity to the New Orleans downtown business district. They said they hoped to have power turned on and much of the debris cleaned up by the end of next week.

About 350,000 to 400,000 homes remained without power in New Orleans and the surrounding area, compared with one million just after the hurricane, according to estimates by Jimmy Field, a member of the state's Public Service Commission, and Daniel Packer, president of Entergy New Orleans, the major electricity provider in the city.

In adjacent St. Bernard Parish, which was particularly hard hit, 99 percent of homes and businesses remained without power, Mr. Field said. In Orleans Parish, that figure was 89 percent, and in Jefferson Parish, just over 50 percent.

As floodwaters recede north toward Lake Pontchartrain, water levels across the city have fallen as much as four feet since Monday. Parts of Interstate 10 that had been flooded are passable, and the city's downtown core is mostly dry.

On Canal Street, a major commercial artery where many news organizations are working out of recreational vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel fuel, some hotels prepared to reopen. Businesses, including some clothing stores, sent employees to inspect their properties.

Yet elsewhere, the city was emptier than it was earlier in the week, with fewer people sitting on porches or drinking outside bars. Even some residents who had promised to resist the evacuation orders said they would relent.

Their change of heart was understandable. In the areas where water remained, its stench has increasingly grown unbearable as corpses rot and human and animal waste builds up. Abandoned and unfed dogs roam, sometimes in packs, along lifeless streets.

Even in dry zones, residents have no electricity or drinkable water, and they face an endless procession of police officers and soldiers telling them that the city is unlivable and encouraging them to leave, sometimes politely and sometimes sternly.

Colonel Ebbert said that in their first sweep of the city, the police and National Guard had persuaded 3,854 residents to leave their homes since Sunday, including many who had spurned previous evacuation orders.

He said that the new sweep would focus on the dead and that for dignity's sake the news media would not be allowed to watch.

Officers who locate bodies will notify mortuary teams under the supervision of FEMA, he added. Those teams will seek to identify the bodies, notify relatives and feed the information to state health officials, who have started to compile death statistics.

While Ms. Landry, the city attorney, continued to assert the legal right to force evacuations and arrest people who refused, she appealed to residents to leave for their safety and to refrain from trying to return.

"If you come into the city now, the likelihood of you sustaining multiple flat tires is very high," she said, noting that checkpoints had been set up at all entrances to the city. "We want to send a message to our citizens who are concerned about the safeguarding of their property. The city is now fully secured."

Yet holdouts remained. In the picturesque Garden District, Dean Eftekhar, 42, a waiter, said he was prepared to leave after soldiers visited him on Wednesday and urged him to evacuate. Later that day, Mr. Eftekhar said, he watched as contractors scooped tree limbs and trash into plastic bags. He went downtown to the Harrah's casino, now a disaster command center, and applied for work helping with the cleanup.

Thursday was his first day on the job, and he said he was told that he would be paid once a week, at a rate of $125 a day, in cash.

"Now," he said, "I have a legitimate excuse to stay in town."

Sewell Chan reported from New Orleans for this article, and Michael Luo from Baton Rouge, La. Alex Berenson contributed reporting from New Orleans, Bill Dawson from Houston and Laura Griffin from Dallas.

    Death Toll in New Orleans May Be Lower Than First Feared, NYT, 10.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/10/national/nationalspecial/10storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

Cingular, Sprint

give Katrina victims bill breaks

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
6:19 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cingular Wireless, the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, has said it would give customers in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina discounts on their cell phone bills, including roaming charges and text messages.

Customers in the New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, markets will receive a one-time 50 percent credit on their monthly fee and will not be charged for roaming, extra minutes, long-distance or text messaging from late August through September 30, according to a September 8 letter made available on Friday.

Cingular's subscribers in the markets of Mobile, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana, will get a one-time 25 percent discount on their monthly charge as well as unspecified discounts on roaming and text messages.

The company, a joint venture of BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. , said the expiration date for prepaid customers will be extended to October 31 and will replace any that expired since August 29.

The Federal Communications Commission had expressed concerns that customers displaced by the hurricane would have their cell phones shut off because they had not paid their bills since they had been evacuated.

The agency sought details on what carriers were doing.

Cingular told the FCC the carrier would not shut off customers in the affected areas for 30 days and would stop collection efforts in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The company declined to say what impact, if any, the policies would have on its revenue.

Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 carrier, said it was working on a case-by-case basis with customers, would not cut them off and had stopped bill collections. The company is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 wireless carrier, said it would give a month of free wireless service to subscribers in the hardest hit areas and would also give free long-distance, extra minutes, roaming and text messaging.

Sprint also said in its own letter to the FCC that it would not cut off customers and has stopped trying to collect on unpaid bills. It did not reveal how long it would do so.

Cingular, Sprint give Katrina victims bill breaks, R, 9.9.2005,
http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=technologyNews&storyID=2005-09-09T221928Z_01_KWA980272_RTRIDST_0_TECH-WIRELESS-DISCOUNTS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans collects dead

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
10:54 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Recovering the dead took priority over coaxing the living out of New Orleans on Friday as the Bush administration replaced its emergency management chief in a post-Hurricane Katrina political storm.

There was some cautious hope that the death toll might not be as big as feared, even as turgid water polluted with bacteria, sewage and chemicals gradually receded in the near-empty city, once home to 450,000. It left behind an equally dangerous muck plastering streets and homes.

City officials said the effort to rescue the stranded and the helpless that began after the August 29 storm breached the city's levees had officially ended and efforts were now turned entirely to finding bodies. They said they were in no hurry to oust those who have refused to quit the city despite an evacuation order.

After days of criticism that President George W. Bush and his team had failed to respond quickly and adequately to the disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown was recalled to Washington. His role overseeing recovery efforts on the U.S. Gulf Coast was handed to Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Four top Democratic senators, headed by Minority Leader Harry Reid, wrote to Bush after the announcement, again asking that Brown be fired.

"It is not enough to remove Mr. Brown from the disaster scene," they wrote. "The individual in charge of FEMA must inspire confidence and be able to coordinate hundreds of federal, state and local resources. Mr. Brown simply doesn't have the ability or the experience to oversee a coordinated federal response of this magnitude."

Some senior Republicans had also attacked Brown. Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican whose house in Pascagoula, Mississippi was destroyed by Katrina, said, "Michael Brown has been acting like a private, instead of a general."

 

RESUME QUESTIONS

Bush had publicly praised Brown last week for doing a "heck of a job." The last straw appeared to come Friday with published reports that Brown had padded his resume, although Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff -- Brown's boss -- dodged a question on those reports.

The official death count in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana stood at more than 300, even though much higher totals had been feared. About a million people were displaced by the destruction.

"There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000," said Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans.

"The search for living individuals across the city has been conducted," Ebbert said. "What we are starting today ... is a recovery operation, a recovery operation to search by street, by grid, for the remains of any individuals who have passed away."

It appeared that those who had refused to leave the city -- at one time thought to number in the thousands -- were now more willing to depart. Provisions for allowing for some to take pets along may have changed some minds and rescue workers said they had retrieved hundreds of cats and dogs, reuniting some with their owners.

But there were holdouts.

One of them, Jean Brad Lacy, left but came back. Sweeping up leaves and dried sewage from the pavement outside of a $200-a-month one-room home that had been knee-deep in water, he said he changed his mind when National Guard troops tried to put him on airplane.

"I can't stand no heights," he said. "I love this place, this is my home."

U.S. military pilots who have been flying over the city for the past nine days say it is clear the water is receding.

"Over in the western areas you don't see the standing water, you see the mud. It's every bit as nasty as the water and it's going to take a long time to clean up but at least the water is gone," said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Osborn, a pilot with the U.S. 1st Cavalry.

"Today we're seeing cars that are able to drive around. The causeway is open. Folks are out trying to put plastic on their roofs. At nighttime we're seeing lights, power is coming on little by little."

 

ROOF REPAIRS

Dozens of homeowners have managed to return to their damaged homes across the shut-down city and outlying parishes. Plastic blue tarps have been stretched over damaged roofs.

In some areas residents could be seen cleaning up damage but most neighborhoods were ghostly.

City officials said New Orleans had been "fully secured," with 14,000 troops on patrol to prevent looting. Workers planned to go house-to-house in search of bodies, many of which may be in poor, mainly black blue-collar neighborhoods where many did not have the means to evacuate before the storm hit.

Around New Orleans, evacuees were returning to St. Charles Parish, a suburban area west of the city and electricity was coming back online in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes to the north.

At St. Bernard Parish along the Gulf Coast, a Reuters reporter saw streets coated in a thick layer of oil and sludge from a refinery spill. Dogs ran around coated in oil, scavenging for garbage. A hazardous materials crew was trying to deal with the situation.

The U.S. postal service resumed limited mail service in the region but officials said it had lost contact with hundreds of its employees in the three states.

"We have more than 6,000 employees in the affected areas ... and out of that number we have heard from maybe a little more than half of them, so we still have hundreds and hundreds of postal employees we don't know where they are," postal spokesman Dave Lewin told reporters in Baton Rouge.

    New Orleans collects dead, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-10T025433Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Beseiged FEMA head

removed from Katrina relief

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
5:47 PM ET
Reuters

 

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown, sharply criticized for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, was pulled out of the Gulf Coast operations on Friday and recalled to Washington amid accusations he exaggerated his experience in disaster relief.

"I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering FEMA nationally," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a news conference in Baton Rouge, where relief operations are managed.

Chertoff said he was putting Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard, in charge of the relief effort on the ground. The catastrophic storm left hundreds of thousands homeless and so far more than 300 confirmed dead, when it hit Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana on August 29.

"Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," Chertoff told reporters. "I appreciate his work."

With Tropical Storm Ophelia spinning off Florida's Atlantic coast and more hurricanes a threat, Chertoff said Brown was needed in Washington to run FEMA's national operations.

A senior Bush administration official said Chertoff made the decision to pull Brown out of the hurricane zone and that Bush supported it.

The Senate has opened a bipartisan investigation into what went wrong with the government's initial response following the storm. A House of Representatives panel may hold a hearing next week and Democrats are demanding an independent commission investigate the slow response.

Bringing Brown back to Washington was not enough for some Democrats, who wrote Bush calling for Brown's dismissal.

Last week, as criticism of his response to the disaster swelled, Bush had given Brown a public vote of confidence, telling him, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," even though that same day Bush had called the initial relief effort "unacceptable."

In more recent days the White House had declined to give Brown an overt vote of confidence, saying when asked that all those involved in the relief effort were appreciated.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan all but signaled a change in Brown's status before the announcement on Friday when he said has a "tremendous amount of trust" in Chertoff as the man in charge of the relief efforts.

When asked where Brown fit into the chain of command, McClellan said: "Well, there's an organizational chart and I'll be happy to get that to you or DHS could as well."

Chertoff deflected questions of whether the move was the first step toward Brown's resignation. Brown did not answer questions at the news conference but issued a brief statement from Washington.

"FEMA is fully capable of handling multi-storm operations," he said. "I am returning to Washington, D.C., to resume oversight over operations for the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia and the immediate response efforts."

Brown was a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head who was a major Bush fund-raiser. He went to the agency in 2001 and became its director in 2003.

A Time magazine report said Brown's official biography released by the White House at the time of his nomination had been exaggerated, which FEMA called "misleading."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and fellow Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Chuck Schumer of New York wrote Bush to call for Brown's dismissal.

Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican whose house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was destroyed by Katrina, also was critical of Brown, saying that he had been "acting like a private, instead of a general."

Ophelia weakened into a tropical storm on Friday and began to creep away from Florida's Atlantic Coast but national hurricane center forecasters said it could return to the U.S. coast as a hurricane next week.

    Beseiged FEMA head removed from Katrina relief, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2005-09-09T214806Z_01_FOR927615_RTRIDST_0_POLITICS-BROWN-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

House panel plans

hearings on Katrina response

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
6:41 PM ET
Reuters

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A House of Representatives panel said on Friday it would hold hearings on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina as plans for a Republican-led joint Senate-House inquiry stalled.

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, said the first hearing on the widely criticized response to the disaster would be on Thursday.

"It has become increasingly clear that local, state and federal government agencies failed to meet the needs of residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama," Davis said in a statement. "Now it's our job to figure out why, and to make sure we are better prepared for the future."

The committee's review of Katrina relief efforts had been thrown into doubt earlier this week when Republican leaders announced plans for a joint House-Senate investigation. But Democrats declined to participate, saying the planned structure of the joint probe would not yield the truth. They demanded an independent commission review.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California repeated calls for an independent commission on Friday in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

"The American people deserve answers independent of politics and from individuals not vested in the outcome," they wrote.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is also investigating the Katrina response. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

    House panel plans hearings on Katrina response, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2005-09-09T224146Z_01_SPI981584_RTRIDST_0_POLITICS-CONGRESS-INVESTIGATION-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Black refugees

ask if Utah will really accept them

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
7:40 PM ET
Reuters
By Adam Tanner

 

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah (Reuters) - Asked whether he would relocate permanently to Utah after being brought here as a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, Larry Andrew rattled off a series of questions on Friday on the delicate issue of race.

"How do the adults really feel about us moving in?" he asked at Camp Williams, a military base 21 miles south of Salt Lake City housing about 400 refugees from last weeks disaster. "What if I find a Caucasian girl and decide to date her?

"Will I have to deal with whispering behind me and eyeballing me?" asked the 36-year-old black man.

For the mostly poor, black refugees evacuated from New Orleans, few places are as geographically remote and culturally alien as this corner of Utah, where 0.2 percent of the population in the nearest town is black.

Still, some refugees, especially younger adults, say they are ready to make a new start in the region even though they did not know they were coming until the doors shut on the airplane evacuating them from New Orleans.

"I'm planning a whole new life," said Phillip Johnson II, 23, who has already arranged an apartment in Salt Lake City. "It's an opportunity knocking for me out here."

He said even though the population of New Orleans was two-thirds black, his appearance with dreadlocks and a goatee still worked against him. "In New Orleans, being a young black man, you get harassed a lot, stereotyped a lot," he said.

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. said he expected about half of the 600 refugees who arrived here to remain permanently and said they would do just fine.

"It's different perhaps than many would think who rely on the old stereotype of Utah being homogeneous," he told Reuters. "We've evolved so rapidly in recent years."

One of the volunteers at the base, Newton Gborway, who moved to Utah from Liberia in West Africa five years ago, shared his first-hand impression of life in an economically prosperous state with a less than 1 percent black population.

"Don't be shocked and surprised if you meet someone who is mean to you or doesn't want to associate with you because you are black," he told Darisn Evans. "You don't worry about the negative stuff."

 

JUST A MATTER OF TIME

"Everything is going to be okay, but it is just a matter of time."

Evans said he would remain in Utah, and would like to work either as a handyman or as a highway patrolman.

His ex-wife Tanya Andrews, 44, said race played a part in their escape from flooded New Orleans, an adventure which she said included looting food, a television and a boat to get to higher land. She said rescuers picked them up only after a lighter-skinned black woman waved down a helicopter.

So far the local community has welcomed the refugees with open arms, although they say they face an adjustment to life in Utah, stronghold of the socially conservative Mormon Church.

"Any time you go in where you are in the minority -- and I'm experienced in this -- it's going to be more difficult," said Wayne Mortimer, mayor of Bluffdale next to Camp Williams.

He cited his past missionary work in Canada when he was a relatively rare Mormon. Mortimer said his town of 6,500, a well-to-do bedroom community of Salt Lake City, had 20 low-income housing units available for the refugees.

"When you are an affluent community like we have, the greatest blessing we can have is to lift someone else," he said in an interview.

Larry Andrew's brother Adrian and sister Tanya, despite initial shock about being sent to Utah, say they will remain in Utah. Even Larry, despite his doubts, says the state is offering him a unique chance.

"According to what I see, it will be beneficial to me economically, even socially," he said. "But how would they adapt to me?"

    Black refugees ask if Utah will really accept them, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-09T234103Z_01_SPI974148_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-UTAH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina fuels global warming storm

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
8:42 AM ET
Reuters
By Alister Doyle,
Environment Correspondent

 

OSLO (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina has spurred debate about global warming worldwide with some environmentalists sniping at President George W. Bush for pulling out of the main U.N. plan for braking climate change.

Experts agree it is impossible to say any one storm is caused by rising temperatures. Numbers of tropical cyclones like hurricanes worldwide are stable at about 90 a year although recent U.S. research shows they may be becoming more intense.

Still, the European Commission, the World Bank, some environmentalists, Australia's Greens and even Sweden's king said the disaster, feared to have killed thousands of people in the United States, could be a portent of worse to come.

"As climate change is happening, we know that the frequency of these disasters will increase as well as the scope," European Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said.

"If we let climate change continue like it is continuing, we will have to deal with disasters like that," she said. She said it was wrong to say Katrina was caused by global warming widely blamed on emissions from cars, power plants and factories.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf told reporters he was deeply shaken by the damage and suffering of millions of people.

"It is quite clear that the world's climate is changing and we should take note," he said. "The hurricane catastrophe in the United States should be a wake-up call for all of us."

Climate change policies sharply divide Bush from most of his allies which have signed up for caps on emissions of greenhouse gases under the U.N.'s Kyoto protocol. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, saying it was too expensive and wrongly excluded developing nations from a first round of caps to 2012.

In July this year, Bush launched a six-nation plan to combat climate change with Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea focused on a shift to cleaner energy technology. Unlike Kyoto, it stops short of setting caps on emissions.

 

SEA LEVEL RISE

U.N. studies say a build-up of greenhouse gases is likely to cause more storms, floods and desertification and could raise sea levels by up to a meter by 2100.

Sea level rise could expose coasts vulnerable to storms because levees would be swamped more easily. Some scientists dispute the forecasts and the United States is investing more heavily than any other nation on climate research.

In Australia, the opposition Greens party said Katrina was aggravated by global warming and criticized Bush for pulling out of Kyoto. The United States, the world's biggest polluter, and Australia are the only rich nations outside Kyoto.

"It demonstrates the massive economic, as well as environmental and social penalties, of George Bush's policies," Greens leader Bob Brown told Reuters. He did not believe Bush would shift to embrace Kyoto-style caps on emissions.

Concerns were also voiced in Germany.

"The U.S. must be more involved," Gerda Hasselfeldt, a leading German candidate to become environment minister if the conservative opposition wins the September 18 election, told n-tv television.

In the United States, the focus has been far more on tackling the human disaster than on links to climate change.

"People are still reeling from the tragedy," said Katie Mandes, a director at the Washington-based Pew Center, a climate change think-tank. "Politically it's too early to tell what it will mean for Americans' views."

Ian Johnson, the World Bank's top environmental official, said Katrina could also be a wake-up call for developing nations, many of which are vulnerable.

An opinion survey published this week showed that 79 percent of Americans feel global warming poses an "important" or "very important" threat to their country in the next 10 years. Worries among Europeans were even higher.

Taken before Katrina in June, the Transatlantic Trends survey showed that Americans felt more threatened than Europeans by terrorism, Islamic extremism, weapons of mass destruction and economic downturn.

Some individual climatic disasters in the past have changed perceptions about climate change. Steve Sawyer, climate change director at Greenpeace, said that ice storms in Canada in the late 1990s had dramatically raised public concerns.

Greenpeace called Katrina a "wake-up call about the dangers of continued global fossil fuel dependency."

Recent research by Kerry Emanuel, a leading U.S. hurricane researcher, shows the intensity of hurricanes -- the wind speeds and the duration -- seems to have risen by about 70 percent in the past 30 years.

"Globally a new signal may be emerging in rising intensity," said Tom Knutson, a research meteorologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Higher water temperatures in future may lead to more storms. Hurricanes need temperatures of about 26.5 C (80F) to form.

(Additional reporting by Michael Perry in Sydney, Elaine Lies in Tokyo, Jeff Mason and Paul Taylor in Brussels, Iain Rogers in Berlin, Timothy Gardner in New York)

    Katrina fuels global warming storm, R, 9.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=
    2005-09-09T124313Z_01_MCC945372_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina rings alarms on climate change:

World Bank

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
12:56 AM ET
Reuters
By Laura MacInnis

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina may serve as a wake-up call on climate change for developing nations, many of which are vulnerable to devastation from global warming, the World Bank's top environmental official said on Thursday.

Ian Johnson, the World Bank's vice president for environmentally and socially sustainable development, told Reuters the storm's heavy damage in the southern United States would have important implications for poorer countries.

"Just think of the catastrophic impact it's had in a country that's pretty well organized, pretty rich. Transfer that to a country that isn't and may not have the same level of capacity to deal with these sorts of things," Johnson said in an interview.

"Katrina is a terrible tragedy, but maybe it is a wake-up call to all of us to begin understanding what catastrophic events, what damage can occur," he added.

In addition to fostering talks on emissions and promoting clean energy products, Johnson said the World Bank is working with private industry to find ways to protect poor nations from the expected environmental shifts linked to global warming.

"There is a real sense that the train has left the station, and that there is going to be a pretty significant impact of climate change," Johnson said, adding the devastation in New Orleans had increased public sensitivity to these risks.

"Certainly in the press, it seems to have raised questions of the extent to which this is part of a global warming world," he said. "I do think that public opinion is thinking a lot about these issues."

In order to protect vulnerable regions, such as low-lying areas and those subject to landslides, Johnson said the World Bank was seeking to spur investment in flood controls and levees and to encourage stricter building standards.

Other ideas include greater reliance on water-resistant or drought-resistant crops to maintain agricultural productivity should weather patterns change, he said, adding new insurance products could also help those who would otherwise lose everything in a disaster.

While poor people in the New Orleans area were among the most affected in Katrina's wake, Johnson said it was not the World Bank's role to lend assistance to the United States or other wealthy developed economies facing environmental risks.

Still, he said it was important to draw lessons from the United States' experience with the storm and its aftermath.

"It is the poor who suffer disproportionately in these events because they tend to be the least capable of resisting, they're not as resilient, they are typically located and live in the areas that are most vulnerable," he said.

"One hopes there will be positive lessons from this that we can apply, because it has been an awful, awful tragedy."

    Katrina rings alarms on climate change: World Bank, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=reutersEdge&storyID=2005-09-09T045643Z_01_SPI882638_RTRIDST_0_PICKS-ECONOMY-WORLDBANK-CLIMATE-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Announcement Follows

Barrage of Criticism;

New Chief Is Named

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:54 p.m. ET

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday.

He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.

Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: ''By the press, yes. By the president, No.''

''Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge,'' Chertoff told reporters in Baton Rouge, La. Chertoff sidestepped a question on whether the move was the first step toward Brown's leaving FEMA.

But a source close to Brown, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FEMA director had been considering leaving after the hurricane season ended in November and that Friday's action virtually assures his departure.

Brown has been under fire because of the administration's slow response to the magnitude of the hurricane. On Thursday, questions were raised about whether he padded his resume to exaggerate his previous emergency management background.

Less than an hour before Brown's removal came to light, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Brown had not resigned and the president had not asked for his resignation.

Chertoff suggested the shift came as the Gulf Coast efforts were entering ''a new phase of the recovery operation.'' He said Brown would return to Washington to oversee the government's response to other potential disasters.

''I appreciate his work, as does everybody here,'' Chertoff said.

''I'm anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies that are being said,'' Brown said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Asked if the move was a demotion, Brown said: ''No. No. I'm still the director of FEMA.''

He said Chertoff made the decision to move him out of Louisiana. It was not his own decision, Brown said.

''I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and, maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep. And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims,'' Brown said. ''This story's not about me. This story's about the worst disaster of the history of our country that stretched every government to its limit and now we have to help these victims.''

Amid escalating calls for Brown's ouster, the White House had insisted publicly for days that Bush retained confidence in his FEMA chief. But there was no question that Brown's star was fading in the administration. In the storm's early days, Brown was the president's primary briefer on its path and the response effort, but by the weekend those duties had been taken over by Brown's boss -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Also, while Brown was very visibly by the president's side during Bush's first on-the-ground visit to the hurricane zone last week, he remained behind the scenes -- with Chertoff out front.

Even before Chertoff's announcement, the beleaguered Brown was facing questions Friday about his resume.

A 2001 press release on the White House Web site says Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 ''overseeing emergency services divisions.''

Brown's official biography on the FEMA Web site says that his background in state and local government also includes serving as ''an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight'' and as a city councilman.

But a former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, told The Associated Press on Friday that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager. Shadid said Brown was never assistant city manager.

''I think there's a difference between the two positions,'' said Shadid. ''I would think that is a discrepancy.'' Asked later about the White House news release that said Brown oversaw Edmond's emergency services divisions, Shadid said, ''I don't think that's a total stretch.''

Time magazine first reported the discrepancy.

Separately, Newsday reported another discrepancy regarding Brown's background. The official White House announcement of Brown's nomination to head FEMA in January 2003 lists his previous experience as ''the Executive Director of the Independent Electrical Contractors,'' a trade group based in Alexandria, Va.

Two officials of the group told Newsday this week that Brown never was the national head of the group but did serve as the executive director of a regional chapter, based in Colorado.

A longtime acquaintance, Carl Reherman, said Brown was very involved in helping set up an emergency operations center in Edmond and assisting in the creation of an emergency contingency plan in the 1970s. At the time, Reherman was a city councilman, and later became mayor.

''From my experience with Mike, he not only worked very hard on everything he did, he had very high standards,'' said Reherman, who also knew Brown when he was a student taking classes from Reherman, who was a professor of political science at Central State University.

Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA's office of public affairs, told Time that while Brown began as an intern, he became an ''assistant city manager'' with a distinguished record of service.

''According to Mike Brown,'' Andrews told Time, a large portion of points raised by the magazine are ''very inaccurate.''

 

Associated Press writers Ron Fournier, Pete Yost and Ted Bridis in Washington and Richard Green in Oklahoma City contributed to this story.

    Announcement Follows Barrage of Criticism; New Chief Is Named, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Katrina-Brown.html

 

 

 

 

 

Search and Rescue Effort in New Orleans

Is Formally Ended

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By SEWELL CHAN
and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 9 - New Orleans officials said today that the search and rescue phase of the Hurricane Katrina response had ended, and that police officers would now go to every home in the city to search for dead bodies.

As officials continued to try to convince holdouts to leave the flooded city, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, would return to Washington from the Gulf Coast, where he had been overseeing the federal government's response to the hurricane. Mr. Brown has been criticized for his agency's response to relief efforts, and for lacking substantial experience in responding to disasters.

Mr. Chertoff said that Mr. Brown had done everything he could to respond to the storm but that he was needed in Washington to superintend FEMA operations.

Earlier today, the director of homeland security for the city of New Orleans, Col. Terry Ebbert, said the number of dead in the city might be smaller than the 10,000 that had been frequently estimated in recent days."There's some encouragement in what we found on initial sweeps," Colonel Ebbert said. "The numbers have been relatively minor." He declined to provide a casualty estimate.

While the efforts of the city have so far been focused on rescuing trapped residents, securing the city against looters, and cajoling holdouts to leave, Colonel Ebbert said efforts will now shift to recovering the dead.

"To the best of our abilities, we have thoroughly searched the city and now we are in a recovery operation for remains," said Colonel Ebbert. The search will start in heavily flooded neighborhoods where "there is the greatest possibility that someone perished," he said. While insisting that a mandatory evacuation order remained in effect, city officials said today that no one had been removed from their homes against their will, and that the city had no timetable for doing so.

"We're trying our best to persuasively negotiate," with the city's remaining residents, said City Attorney Sherry Landry. "We are not using force at this time. I can not speak to the future." She added, "If we find it necessary to do so in the interest of safety, we will do so."

The city has set up checkpoints at all major entry points to keep residents from returning. Ms. Landry said the city is now "fully secured," with some 14,000 troops and police officers "actively patrolling all parts of the city."

Kristen Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said during a telephone interview today that disease seems to be in check.

"At this time we have not had anything beyond mild gastrointestinal illnesses, and we haven't seen a whole lot of that," she said. Fecal matter in the floodwaters from sewer overflow appears to be the cause of those illness, said Ms. Meyer.

She said one area of concern was Hepatitis A, which can be caught from fecal matter and has an incubation period of 30 days. She added, however, that Hepatitis A had not been prevalent prior to the storm, and that officials are hopeful it would not be a major concern in the future.

This morning, President Bush thanked foreign governments for their support of the hurricane relief effort, comparing it to the international response to the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks.

"In this time of struggle, the American people need to know we're not struggling alone," he said. "I want to thank the world community for its prayers and for the offers of assistance that have come from all around the world."

President Bush noted that Air Canada had helped in evacuating residents, that Afghanistan had offered to send $100,000 to aid victims, and that Kuwait had volunteered to provide $400 million in oil and $100 million in humanitarian aid.

In Brussels, NATO commanders agreed in an emergency meeting today to provide ships and planes to help deliver aid to the victims in the United States. The planes are expected to arrive in the next few days but the ships could take nearly two weeks.

The aid was requested by the United States on Thursday. Agreeing to provide it "was a very quick and very easy decision," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

The White House said today that Mr. Bush would return to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday, his third visit to the area since Hurricane Katrina hit land on Aug. 29. He will travel there after participating in a ceremony marking the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his spokesman, Scott McClellan, said this morning.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush urged the nearly one million people displaced by the storm to contact federal agencies to apply for immediate aid. He praised the outpouring of private charity to the displaced, but said the costs of restoring lives would affect all Americans, as would the horror of the storm's carnage.

"The responsibility of caring for hundreds of thousands of citizens who no longer have homes is going to place many demands on our nation," the president said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "We have many difficult days ahead, especially as we recover those who did not survive the storm."

As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney was touring Mississippi and Louisiana, in part as an answer to the critics who have said that the administration responded too slowly and timidly to the epic disaster. At a stop in Gulfport, Miss., a heckler shouted an obscenity at the vice president. Mr. Cheney shrugged it off, saying it was the first such abuse he had heard.

Also on Thursday, Congress approved a $51.8 billion package of storm aid, bringing the total to more than $62 billion in a week. The government is now spending $2 billion dollars a day to respond to the disaster.

The confirmed death toll in Louisiana remained at 83 on Thursday. Efforts to recover corpses are beginning, although only a handful of bodies have been recovered so far. Official estimates of the death toll in New Orleans are still vague, but 10,000 remains a common figure.

Mississippi officials said they had confirmed 196 dead as of Thursday, including 143 in coastal areas, although Gov. Haley Barbour said he expected the toll to rise.

"It would just be a guess, but the 200 or just over 300 we think is a credible and reliable figure," the governor said on NBC's "Today" show.

He also said electricity would be restored by Sunday to most homes and businesses in the state that could receive it.

The water continued to recede slowly in the city 10 days after Hurricane Katrina swept ashore and levees failed at several points, inundating the basin New Orleans sits in.

The Army Corps of Engineers has restored to operation 37 of the city's 174 permanent pumps, allowing them to drain 11,000 cubic feet of water per second from the basin. When all the pumps are working, they can remove 81,000 cubic feet of water per second, said Dan Hitchings of the engineering corps.

It will be months before the breadth of the devastation from the storm is known. But a report by the Louisiana fisheries department calculated the economic loss to the state's important seafood industry at as much as $1.6 billion over the next 12 months.

Louisiana's insurance commissioner, J. Robert Wooley, said the state had barred insurance companies from canceling any homeowner's insurance policies in the days immediately before the storm hit and afterward.

"All cancellations will be voided," Mr. Wooley said.

Across New Orleans, active-duty soldiers, National Guard members and local law enforcement agencies from across the country continued door-to-door searches by patrol car, Humvee, helicopter and boat, urging remaining residents to leave.

Maj. Gen. James Ron Mason of the Kansas National Guard, who commands about 25,000 Guard troops in and around New Orleans, said his forces had rescued 687 residents by helicopter, boat and high-wheeled truck in the past 24 hours.

The superintendent of New Orleans police, P. Edwin Compass III, said that after a week of near anarchy in the city, no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

That order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16s and other assault rifles.

Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.

Sewell Chan reported from New Orleans for this article and Timothy Williams from New York. Reporting was contributed by Alex Berensonfrom New Orleans; Jeremy Alford, Shaila Dewan and John M. Broder from Baton Rouge, La.; Ralph Blumenthal from Houston, and Marek Fuchs from New York.

    Search and Rescue Effort in New Orleans Is Formally Ended, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09cnd-storm.html






 

New rescue chief named,

New Orleans collects dead

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
2:42 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The Bush administration moved to quell a political storm on Friday by replacing the embattled head of emergency operations along the U.S. Gulf Coast, as rescue workers in New Orleans ended recovery efforts and began collecting the dead victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced he was appointing Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the U.S. Coast Guard, to take charge of recovery operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and recalling Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown to Washington to coordinate the response to other possible disasters.

"We have to have seamless interaction with military forces," Chertoff told a news conference in Baton Rouge. "Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge. I appreciate his work, as does everybody here."

Brown had been the target of furious bipartisan criticism for the government's slow initial response to the hurricane and some of both political parties have called for his firing.

But President George W. Bush publicly praised Brown last week for doing a "heck of a job." The last straw appeared to come Friday with published reports that Brown had padded his resume, although Chertoff refused to acknowledge a question on these reports.

 

SEARCH FOR THE DEAD

In New Orleans, hopes rose that the number of dead might not be as catastrophic as predicted. Rescuers were only now beginning a methodical house-by-house search of the city for victims' bodies.

Thousands had been feared trapped in the poor, blue-collar neighborhoods, where people had no means to evacuate ahead of the August 29 storm.

"There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps. ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000," Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for the city of New Orleans said at a news conference with other city officials.

Flood waters were receding and city officials said New Orleans was now "fully secured," with 14,000 troops on patrol to prevent looting. Some neighboring areas were showing signs of recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said that contrary to earlier reports nobody was being forcibly removed from the city. Thousands of people were still believed to be holding out, some in neighborhoods still awash in a fetid soup of debris, bacteria, decomposed bodies, chemicals and oil, with no electricity and no running water.

 

FROM RESCUE TO RECOVERY

"The search for living individuals across the city has been conducted," Ebbert said. "What we are starting today ... is a recovery operation, a recovery operation to search by street, by grid, for the remains of any individuals who have passed away."

So far the official toll in Louisiana is 118 confirmed dead, and more than 300, including Mississippi and Alabama. Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have dispersed across the country with nearly 250,000 housed in shelters.

Around New Orleans, evacuees were returning to St. Charles Parish, a suburban area west of the city. Electricity was coming back online in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes to the north.

At St. Bernard Parish along the Gulf Coast, a Reuters reporter saw streets coated in a thick layer of oil and sludge from a refinery spill. Wild dogs were running around coated in oil, scavenging for garbage. A hazardous materials crew was on hand, trying to deal with the situation.

Reuters reporter Jason Webb, reporting from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain north of the city, said a two-mile stretch of high-priced waterfront homes built on jetties was almost totally destroyed.

"It just looks like a nuclear bomb hit," said Ted Modica, 49, as he picked through the ruins of his $295,000 home for personal items that might have survived the onslaught. The two-story house once stood 13 feet above the water.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said engineers were trying to remap shipping lanes, seeing what debris needed to be removed from the ocean floor, so that ports could reopen.

 

BIGGEST CRISIS

Bush, facing his biggest crisis since the attacks of September 11, 2001, vowed to overcome the disaster.

"America is a strong and resilient nation. Our people have the spirit, the resources and the determination to overcome any challenge," he said at a State Department ceremony before Brown was called back to Washington.

Even as he spoke, Bush faced renewed criticism for packing FEMA with political cronies and saw his approval rating fall to 40 percent, down four points since July to the lowest point the Pew Research Center has recorded.

The Washington Post reported that five of the top eight FEMA officials had little experience in handling disasters and owed their jobs to their Republican political ties to Bush.

Brown is a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head who was a major Bush fund-raiser. Last week, as criticism of his response to the disaster swelled, Bush gave him a public vote of confidence, saying, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Bush administration officials were busy rushing fresh aid to the region while also trying to blunt the political fallout over the federal response to what, at an estimated $100 billion to $200 billion, could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Republican House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay told a news conference at the Houston Astrodome he "vehemently" disagreed with any proposal to set up an independent commission to look at botched aid effort.

    New rescue chief named, New Orleans collects dead, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T184258Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina changes the rules

but not the building norms

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
2:09 PM ET
Reuters
By Crispian Balmer

 

GULFPORT, Mississippi (Reuters) - Hurricane Katrina has set a new benchmark for storm devastation on the Mississippi coast, but the widespread destruction is not about to make the survivors re-build their homes any stronger.

Katrina touched down on the U.S. shore with sustained winds of 150 mph and brought with it a storm surge that wrecked scores of communities, turning beachfront residential areas into little more than piles of kindling.

"This hurricane re-writes our folklore. It shows you can't predict anything and can't build to protect," said Bob Anderson, a power technician for Con Edison who has witnessed the aftermath of numerous killer storms.

"You have to respect the force of nature, not challenge it," he said, standing on Gulfport's razed sea front where barely a single building is left standing.

Long-time residents used to maintain that the 1969 Hurricane Camille was the mother of all storms, and technically speaking it is still the strongest to have made landfall in U.S. record.

However, it didn't pack the same punch as Katrina because it did not generate the same massive flooding.

Many of those who rode out Katrina rather than escape in-land, said they decided to stay because they knew their neighborhoods had survived Camille, not to mention a long list of subsequent storms such as Elena, George and Frederick (pls check spelling of this last).

"You can blame a lot of the deaths here on Camille, not on Katrina. Folk thought Camille was the worst it could get and they was wrong," said Greg Verges, who owns a bait shop in Ocean Springs.

He built the shop 13.1 ft up the shore because he knew the Camille flood only got to 13 ft. Katrina came in at 20.6 ft in Ocean Springs, and even higher further west heading toward Gulfport and on to New Orleans.

"Katrina's changed the rules," Verges said, standing next to his foul-smelling, sea-ruined freezers.

 

TIMBER HOMES

It might have changed some rules, but that does mean it will make people change the way they re-build their new houses.

Many of the destroyed homes were primarily made of timber, meaning they were relatively cheap and easy to put up. Public buildings and hotels made of reinforced concrete appeared to withstand the storm much better.

After Hurricane Andrew destroyed about 53,000 homes in Florida in 1992, authorities there introduced a stricter building code to make new houses more rugged.

Locals along the Mississippi coast said many of those norms were already in place here and doubted there would be a further tightening of the screw because ordinary people could not afford to put up super resilient homes on the off-chance of another Katrina.

"I don't think we'll build stronger," said Bob Wright, a semi-retired engineer, evacuated to an Ocean Springs hotel after his house suffered severe flooding in the hurricane.

"There is no point in building something to withstand a storm like Katrina, It would be too expensive. You'd be better off getting insurance and rebuilding if you lose your house again."

Some residents who lost everything are contemplating leaving the coast and finding a safer place to set up home. But if they leave, they are likely to find a queue of buyers for their land - people anxious to swap the chill of the American north for the tropical heat of southern Mississippi.

"You'll get northerners moving down here saying What's a hurricane? All they'll see is the sand and the sea and they won't know. You have to live it to believe it," said Wright.

    Katrina changes the rules but not the building norms, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T180936Z_01_MCC965262_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-BENCHMARK-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush faces new questions on relief

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
12:44 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Rescue crews prepared to speed up the retrieval of the dead from Hurricane Katrina on Friday amid reports that President George W. Bush chose unqualified political supporters rather than disaster experts to head the agency leading the relief effort.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired a private firm to coordinate the recovery of bodies in and around New Orleans. The official death toll from the monster storm that hit Louisiana and Mississippi has exceeded 300 but is expected to climb much higher. Officials have 25,000 body bags on hand.

Water levels were slowly falling in a city still flooded with a toxic brew of dark-brown water poisoned by bacteria, gasoline, oil, chemicals, debris and submerged bodies. A fifth of the city's 75 major drainage pumps were back in operation draining fetid water from the city, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on Friday.

Rescuers were still going door-to-door in New Orleans neighborhoods, trying to persuade reluctant stragglers to evacuate and were soon expected to begin removing people by force. Thousands of people were still believed to be holding out in the city.

Officials said there were fewer fires than in recent days, with 11 on Thursday, the Times-Picayune reported.

 

POLITICAL TIES TO BUSH

The Washington Post reported that five of the top eight FEMA officials had little experience in handling disasters and owed their jobs to their political ties to Bush.

As political operatives took the top jobs, professionals and experts in hurricanes and disasters left the agency, the newspaper said.

FEMA director Michael Brown, already under fire for his performance as the disaster unfolded, came under further pressure when Time magazine reported that his official biography released by the White House at the time of his nomination exaggerated his experience in disaster relief.

Brown was a friend of former Bush campaign director Joe Allbaugh, the previous FEMA head. Brown had also headed an Arabian horse association. Last week, as criticism of his response to the disaster swelled, Bush gave him a public vote of confidence, saying, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site said he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," but Time quoted an official in Edmond, Oklahoma, as saying the job was actually "assistant to the city manager," with little responsibility. The magazine also said Brown padded his academic accomplishments.

"The assistant is more like an intern," city spokeswoman Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him."

In response to the report on Time's Web site, FEMA issued a statement that took issue with elements related to an unofficial biography, and described his job in Edmond as "assistant to the city manager."

Bush administration officials were busy rushing fresh aid to the region while also trying to blunt the political fallout over the federal response to what, at an estimated $100 billion to $200 billion, could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans thought Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts, and just 28 percent believed he did all he could. The president's approval rating fell to 40 percent, down four points since July to the lowest point Pew has recorded.

Colin Powell, the former U.S. secretary of state and a possible leader for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, criticized the disaster response by all levels of government in an interview to be broadcast on Friday.

 

'ENOUGH WARNING'

"There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why," Powell said in excerpts of the "20/20" program interview posted to the ABC Web site.

The task of retrieving and identifying bodies promised to be grim and difficult. Many were feared to be trapped in the poor, blue-collar subdivisions of the city, where people had no means to evacuate ahead of the storm.

Many corpses have decomposed. Poor people may not have dental records useful in identification. And family members of the dead have scattered across the entire country.

The president sent Vice President Dick Cheney to Mississippi and Louisiana on Thursday to help untangle bureaucratic red tape that had triggered complaints from some of the 1 million people displaced by the storm.

Cheney rode through the streets of downtown New Orleans in a Humvee, the highest-ranking Bush administration official to visit the shattered city center.

Asked about bureaucratic problems, Cheney said: "I think the progress we're making is significant. I think the performance in general at least in terms of the information I've received from locals is definitely very impressive."

Congress on Thursday pushed through approval for $51.8 billion in new aid, after an earlier $10.5 billion was exhausted in the first days since the storm hit on August 29.

Bush immediately signed the measure. "More resources will be needed as we work to help people get back on their feet," he said.

Bush also issued an executive order on Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of the hurricane to pay below the prevailing wage, drawing rebukes from two congressional Democrats who said stricken families need good wages to rebuild their lives.

    Bush faces new questions on relief, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T164434Z_01_MCC956417_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-WRAP-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans now secure - city attorney

 

Fri Sep 9, 2005
12:41 PM ET
Reuters

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans is fully secure and officials hope to restore power to the city's central business district within seven days, city attorney Sherry Landry said on Friday.

"The city is now fully secured. The city is now fully secured," Landry said at a news conference.

"Fourteen thousand troops are in Orleans Parish. At present they are actively patrolling all areas of the city and running nightly reconnaissance to prevent further looting."

She said while there was power in the central business district on Friday, it was not able to support all buildings.

"It is our goal to restore power to the CBD (central business district) and clear all streets of debris and glass withing the next seven days. After that we will establish a process for businesses to return to the city," Landry said.

    New Orleans now secure - city attorney, R, 9.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T164208Z_01_MCC959829_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-RECOVERY-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Holdouts on Dry Ground Say,

'Why Leave Now?'

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By ALEX BERENSON

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - Ten days ago, the water rose to the front steps of their house. Four days ago, it began falling. But only now is the city demanding that Richie Kay and Emily Harris get out.

They cannot understand why. They live on high ground in the Bywater neighborhood, and their house escaped structural damage. They are healthy and have enough food and water to last almost a year.

They have a dog to protect them, a car with a full tank of gasoline should they need to leave quickly and a canoe as a last resort. They said they used it last week to rescue 100 people.

"We're not the people they need to be taking out," Mr. Kay said. "We're the people they need to be coordinating with."

Scattered throughout the dry neighborhoods of New Orleans, which are growing larger each day as pumps push water out of the city, are people like Mr. Kay and Ms. Harris. They are defying Mayor C. Ray Nagin's orders to leave, contending that he will violate their constitutional rights if he forces them out of the homes they own or rent.

"We have food, we have water, we have antibiotics," said Kenneth Charles Kinler, who is living with four other men on Marais Street, which was covered with almost four feet of water last week but is now dry. "We're more or less watching the area for looters."

Mr. Nagin has said the city is not safe for civilians because of the risk of fire and water-borne diseases. There was no official word on Thursday about when the police would start to evict residents forcibly, but officers have been knocking on doors to plead with people to leave on their own.

"Unless you have enough food or water for three weeks, you're a walking dead man," Sgt. George Jackson told holdouts on the northern edge of the city on Thursday afternoon.

To reduce the risk of violent confrontation, the police began confiscating firearms on Thursday, even those legally owned.

To be sure, many of the thousands of people remaining in New Orleans want to leave, especially in neighborhoods where the water continues to stand several feet deep. Hundreds of people a day are being ferried to the convention center by National Guard troops in five-ton trucks and then bused outside the city.

Some holdouts may change their minds as their food and water run out. Some appear mentally incompetent or have houses in severely flooded neighborhoods and are staying in the city in the mistaken hope that they will be able to go home in a few days.

But thousands more do not fall in any of those categories. They are sitting on dry ground with all their belongings and plenty of provisions. They say they want to stay to help rebuild their city and maybe earn some money doing it, because they have animals they are afraid to leave behind, or to protect their property or simply because they have always lived here and see no reason to move their lives to a motel room in Houston or San Antonio.

Billie Moore, who lives in an undamaged 3,000-square-foot house on the city's southwestern flank that also stayed dry, said she did not want to lose her job as a pediatric nurse at the Ochsner Clinic in Jefferson Parish, which continues to function.

"Who's going to take care of the patients if all the nurses go away?" Ms. Moore asked.

When police officers arrived at her house to warn of the health risks of remaining, she showed them her hospital identification card.

"I guess you know the health risks then," the officer said.

Ms. Moore and her husband, Richard Robinson, have been using an old gas stove to cook pasta and rice, dumping cans of peas on top for flavor.

"We try to be normal and sit down and eat," Ms. Moore, 52, said. "I think that how we'll stay healthy is if I keep the house clean."

Power remains out in most of the city, and even where the tap water is flowing, it is not drinkable. Bathing and using the toilet are daily challenges. Many residents are siphoning water from swimming pools and fountains.

Some holdouts seem intent on keeping alive the distinct and wild spirit of this city. In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found a unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic.

On Thursday morning on St. Claude Avenue, a commercial strip in Bywater, east of downtown, about 12 people congregated inside and in front of Kajun's Pub, drinking and smoking. Inside, the bar looked dank, but a fan swirled air overhead and a television set in the corner showed local news, both fired by the bar's portable generator.

"New Orleans has been my home for 20 years," said Kenny Dobbs, who celebrated his 35th birthday at the bar after the flood. "I've been on my own since I was 14."

Like other people, Mr. Dobbs said, he believed that the city had exaggerated the health risks of staying, as a scare tactic. The city simply wants to force people out so that its reconstruction will go more smoothly, he said.

"Why do you think they're evacuating people?" he asked. "So they don't have as much to deal with."

The police and federal law enforcement officials have depicted many of those staying as looters waiting to pounce, though the holdouts said that they were actually protecting their neighborhoods from crime and that their steady presence is a greater deterrent than the occasional police patrol.

While residents and some legal experts question the constitutionality of forced evacuations, those staying have no functioning courthouse in the city to hear their complaints, and no state or federal authorities have stepped in to stop the plan.

In general, residents say the active-duty soldiers and National Guard troops had treated them well. Local police officers, many of them working for almost two weeks straight and having lost families or possessions, have been much more aggressive, Mr. Dobbs said.

Two New Orleans police officers stole $50 and a bottle of whiskey from him last week after finding him on the street after dark, he said.

With police officers and federal law enforcement agents ratcheting up the pressure on residents to leave, the holdouts worry that it is just a matter of time before they are forced out.

Ms. Harris said she did not want to leave. "I haven't even run out of weed yet," she said.

But she knows that fighting with police officers is futile.

"I'll probably bitch and moan, but I'm not going to hole up," she said.

And by Thursday afternoon, Kajun's Pub had closed, and the vehicles previously parked outside were gone.

There was no indication whether Mr. Dobbs and the other people who had been drinking and joking six hours earlier had been evacuated or simply disappeared into the city.

Jodi Wilgoren contributed reporting for this article.

    Holdouts on Dry Ground Say, 'Why Leave Now?', NYT, 9.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09holdouts.html

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of Recovery Surges,

as Do Bids to Join in Effort

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
and CARL HULSE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - With Congress primed to spend billions of dollars on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, lawmakers and industry groups are lining up to bring home their share of the cascade of money for rebuilding and relief.

White House officials and Congressional budget experts now assume that federal costs for the hurricane will shoot past $100 billion, which itself is more than twice the entire annual federal budget for domestic security. Congress on Thursday approved $51.8 billion in spending, bringing the total so far to more than $62 billion.

The demand for money comes from many directions. Louisiana lawmakers plan to push for billions of dollars to upgrade the levees around New Orleans, rebuild highways, lure back business and shore up the city's sinking foundation. The devastated areas of Mississippi and Alabama will need similar infusions of cash.

Communities will want compensation for taking in evacuees. And there will be future costs of health care, debris removal, temporary housing, clothing, vehicle replacement. Farmers from the Midwest, meanwhile, are beginning to press for emergency relief as a result of their difficulties in shipping grain through the Port of New Orleans.

Other ideas circulating through Congress that could entail significant costs include these notions:

¶Turning New Orleans and other cities affected by the storm into big new tax-free zones.

¶Providing reconstruction money for tens of thousands of homeowners and small businesses that did not have federal flood insurance on their houses or buildings.

¶Making most hurricane victims eligible for health care under Medicaid and having the federal government pay the full cost rather than the current practice of splitting costs with states.

The torrent of money - more than $2 billion a day over the weekend, and expected to remain above $500 million a day for the foreseeable future - prompted several lawmakers to warn about the perils of an open checkbook.

"We are reaching a perfect political storm," said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. "We have all the earmarks of a rush to spend money that is very dangerous."

Mr. Sessions called on President Bush to appoint a person with significant business experience to oversee the spending. Contained within the spending measure approved Thursday is a provision that directs an extra $15 million to the inspector general's office in the Department of Homeland Security. The agency is also ordered to provide at least weekly reports to Congress on the use of the money.

Those safeguards, along with a decision by the administration to waive the federal law requiring that prevailing wages be paid on construction projects underwritten by federal dollars, were critical to persuading Congressional conservatives to vote for the money. It passed the House on 410-to-11 vote, with the only opposition coming from Republicans. The Senate vote was 97 to 0.

But fiscal conservatives who supported the legislation on Thursday threatened to oppose future installments of money unless Congress and the administration begin to find ways to offset the spending so it is not just piled on top of the federal deficit.

"Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren," said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana and a conservative leader in the House.

"There is no sacrifice on the part of Congress," said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who said the decision to not cut spending elsewhere was a failure of leadership.

The emergency spending plan also drew scrutiny from some lawmakers who contended that it raised the risk of fraud by increasing the spending limit on about 250,000 credit cards issued to government workers from $15,000 to $250,000. "The use of government credit cards has a track record, and it is not a good one," Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, wrote in a letter urging Congressional leaders to delete the provision.

But Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader and typically an opponent of increased spending for social programs, argued that Congress had no choice but to provide the financial assistance as quickly as possible.

"I know the American people, some of them are worrying about all this money," Mr. DeLay said. "Ladies and gentlemen, five million people, five million Americans, deserve us finding a way to make them whole."

House Democrats complained that they were prevented Thursday from offering a proposal to sever the Federal Emergency Management Agency from the Department of Homeland Security and making other changes before turning over so much to the agency, which has come under withering fire for its storm response. Republicans said they did not want to impede the aid by getting caught up in a legislative fight, and they said Democrats would have opportunities later to offer the FEMA changes.

Administration officials said the government spent about $2 billion a day last weekend, and the additional $51.8 billion would merely cover costs for "the next few weeks."

Joshua B. Bolten, the White House budget director, said the spending rate last weekend stemmed in part from signing big contracts for debris removal and temporary housing. The government has already bought 100,000 trailers for temporary housing and is trying to buy 200,000 more.

Of the new money, $23.2 billion is designated for temporary housing and other financial assistance to individuals. Another $11 billion is broadly aimed at "mission assignments" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will hire other agencies and companies for jobs like debris removal.

FEMA will receive about $4.65 billion to pay for logistical needs, supplies and search-and-rescue operations. The Army Corps of Engineers will get $3 billion, essentially to pay for repairing the broken levees in New Orleans.

But the relief money is not expected to cover any of the real reconstruction costs that lie ahead: repair of highways, bridges and other infrastructure and new projects that seek to prevent a repeat of the New Orleans disaster. Nor will it even help pay for expanded availability of food stamps and poverty programs to cover hurricane victims.

"I'm fearful that this will open the floodgates for money," said Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, a research group that supports reduced government spending. "If they spend $1 billion a day for relief, that's fine. But down the road, state and local governments traditionally issue bonds for infrastructure when they need to build."

Shortly before the House voted to approve Mr. Bush's request for $51.8 billion, it approved a separate bill to let hurricane victims get more access to the federal welfare assistance for low-income families.

Democratic lawmakers proposed a raft of their own proposals. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, called for giving hurricane victims immediate access to Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income people, and letting victims collect unemployment payments for as long as one year.

    Cost of Recovery Surges, as Do Bids to Join in Effort, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09costs.html

 

 

 

 

 


Cost of Recovery Surges,

as Do Bids to Join in Effort

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
and CARL HULSE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - With Congress primed to spend billions of dollars on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, lawmakers and industry groups are lining up to bring home their share of the cascade of money for rebuilding and relief.

White House officials and Congressional budget experts now assume that federal costs for the hurricane will shoot past $100 billion, which itself is more than twice the entire annual federal budget for domestic security. Congress on Thursday approved $51.8 billion in spending, bringing the total so far to more than $62 billion.

The demand for money comes from many directions. Louisiana lawmakers plan to push for billions of dollars to upgrade the levees around New Orleans, rebuild highways, lure back business and shore up the city's sinking foundation. The devastated areas of Mississippi and Alabama will need similar infusions of cash.

Communities will want compensation for taking in evacuees. And there will be future costs of health care, debris removal, temporary housing, clothing, vehicle replacement. Farmers from the Midwest, meanwhile, are beginning to press for emergency relief as a result of their difficulties in shipping grain through the Port of New Orleans.

Other ideas circulating through Congress that could entail significant costs include these notions:

¶Turning New Orleans and other cities affected by the storm into big new tax-free zones.

¶Providing reconstruction money for tens of thousands of homeowners and small businesses that did not have federal flood insurance on their houses or buildings.

¶Making most hurricane victims eligible for health care under Medicaid and having the federal government pay the full cost rather than the current practice of splitting costs with states.

The torrent of money - more than $2 billion a day over the weekend, and expected to remain above $500 million a day for the foreseeable future - prompted several lawmakers to warn about the perils of an open checkbook.

"We are reaching a perfect political storm," said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. "We have all the earmarks of a rush to spend money that is very dangerous."

Mr. Sessions called on President Bush to appoint a person with significant business experience to oversee the spending. Contained within the spending measure approved Thursday is a provision that directs an extra $15 million to the inspector general's office in the Department of Homeland Security. The agency is also ordered to provide at least weekly reports to Congress on the use of the money.

Those safeguards, along with a decision by the administration to waive the federal law requiring that prevailing wages be paid on construction projects underwritten by federal dollars, were critical to persuading Congressional conservatives to vote for the money. It passed the House on 410-to-11 vote, with the only opposition coming from Republicans. The Senate vote was 97 to 0.

But fiscal conservatives who supported the legislation on Thursday threatened to oppose future installments of money unless Congress and the administration begin to find ways to offset the spending so it is not just piled on top of the federal deficit.

"Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren," said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana and a conservative leader in the House.

"There is no sacrifice on the part of Congress," said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who said the decision to not cut spending elsewhere was a failure of leadership.

The emergency spending plan also drew scrutiny from some lawmakers who contended that it raised the risk of fraud by increasing the spending limit on about 250,000 credit cards issued to government workers from $15,000 to $250,000. "The use of government credit cards has a track record, and it is not a good one," Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, wrote in a letter urging Congressional leaders to delete the provision.

But Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader and typically an opponent of increased spending for social programs, argued that Congress had no choice but to provide the financial assistance as quickly as possible.

"I know the American people, some of them are worrying about all this money," Mr. DeLay said. "Ladies and gentlemen, five million people, five million Americans, deserve us finding a way to make them whole."

House Democrats complained that they were prevented Thursday from offering a proposal to sever the Federal Emergency Management Agency from the Department of Homeland Security and making other changes before turning over so much to the agency, which has come under withering fire for its storm response. Republicans said they did not want to impede the aid by getting caught up in a legislative fight, and they said Democrats would have opportunities later to offer the FEMA changes.

Administration officials said the government spent about $2 billion a day last weekend, and the additional $51.8 billion would merely cover costs for "the next few weeks."

Joshua B. Bolten, the White House budget director, said the spending rate last weekend stemmed in part from signing big contracts for debris removal and temporary housing. The government has already bought 100,000 trailers for temporary housing and is trying to buy 200,000 more.

Of the new money, $23.2 billion is designated for temporary housing and other financial assistance to individuals. Another $11 billion is broadly aimed at "mission assignments" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will hire other agencies and companies for jobs like debris removal.

FEMA will receive about $4.65 billion to pay for logistical needs, supplies and search-and-rescue operations. The Army Corps of Engineers will get $3 billion, essentially to pay for repairing the broken levees in New Orleans.

But the relief money is not expected to cover any of the real reconstruction costs that lie ahead: repair of highways, bridges and other infrastructure and new projects that seek to prevent a repeat of the New Orleans disaster. Nor will it even help pay for expanded availability of food stamps and poverty programs to cover hurricane victims.

"I'm fearful that this will open the floodgates for money," said Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, a research group that supports reduced government spending. "If they spend $1 billion a day for relief, that's fine. But down the road, state and local governments traditionally issue bonds for infrastructure when they need to build."

Shortly before the House voted to approve Mr. Bush's request for $51.8 billion, it approved a separate bill to let hurricane victims get more access to the federal welfare assistance for low-income families.

Democratic lawmakers proposed a raft of their own proposals. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, called for giving hurricane victims immediate access to Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income people, and letting victims collect unemployment payments for as long as one year.

    Cost of Recovery Surges, as Do Bids to Join in Effort, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09costs.html

 

 

 

 

 


A Legal System in Shambles

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By PETER APPLEBOME
and JONATHAN D. GLATER

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 8 - At Rapides Parish Detention Center 3 in Alexandria, which normally holds convicted felons, there are now 200 new inmates who arrived hot, hungry and exhausted on buses this week after being evacuated from flooded jails in New Orleans.

They have no paperwork indicating whether they are charged with having too much to drink or attempted murder. There is no judge to hear their cases, no courthouse designated to hear them in and no lawyer to represent them. If lawyers can be found, there is no mechanism for paying them. The prisoners have had no contact with their families for days and do not know whether they are alive or dead, if their homes do or do not exist.

"It's like taking a jail and shaking it up in a fruit-basket turnover, so no one has any idea who these people are or why they're here," said Phyllis Mann, one of several local lawyers who were at the detention center until 11 p.m. Wednesday, trying to collect basic information on the inmates. "There is no system of any kind for taking care of these people at this point."

Along with the destruction of homes, neighborhoods and lives, Hurricane Katrina decimated the legal system of the New Orleans region.

More than a third of the state's lawyers have lost their offices, some for good. Most computer records will be saved. Many other records will be lost forever. Some local courthouses have been flooded, imperiling a vast universe of files, records and documents. Court proceedings from divorces to murder trials, to corporate litigation, to custody cases will be indefinitely halted and when proceedings resume lawyers will face prodigious - if not insurmountable - obstacles in finding witnesses and principals and in recovering evidence.

It is an implosion of the legal network not seen since disasters like the Chicago fire of 1871 or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, events in times so much simpler as to be useless in making much sense of this one.

"There aren't too many catastrophes that have just wiped out entire cities," said Robert Gordon, a professor at Yale Law School who teaches legal history.

The effects on individual lawyers vary, from large firms that have already been able to find space, contact clients and resume working on cases, to individual lawyers who fear they may never be able to put their practices back together. But the storm has left even prominent lawyers wondering whether they will have anything to go back to.

William Rittenberg, former president of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a lawyer for 35 years in New Orleans, said he had spent the time since the storm living like a gypsy with his wife and two dogs, moving from Columbus, Miss., to Houston to San Antonio. Mr. Rittenberg said that his firm's main client had been the teachers union for the New Orleans schools, but that there is no way to know when or if school will resume this year.

"I really don't know if I have a law practice anymore," he said.

Some logistical issues are being addressed as the courts scramble to find new places to set up shop. The Louisiana Supreme Court is moving its operations from New Orleans to a circuit court in Baton Rouge. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is moving to Houston, and electronic technology has allowed lawyers and courts to save files and documents in a way that would have been impossible in the past.

But the biggest immediate problem is with criminal courts in southern Louisiana, with thousands of detainees awaiting hearings and trials who have been thrust into a legal limbo without courts, trials, or lawyers.

So in Alexandria, a city in central Louisiana, in a scene repeated at prisons and jails throughout the state, Ms. Mann said she and other lawyers had interviewed all 200 inmates, and the criminal defense lawyers' organization was painstakingly trying to compile a registry of prisoners and lawyers. The goal is to put them together, though many of the prisoners do not yet have lawyers and many of the lawyers are scattered across the country.

Ms. Mann said that some prisoners, no doubt, were accused of serious crimes, but that most had been arrested on misdemeanor charges like drunkenness that typically fill local lockups. Most were either awaiting hearings or had not been able to make bond and were awaiting trial, which, for many, had been set for the day the hurricane hit.

"I talked to one guy who was arrested for reading a tarot card without a permit," she said. "These are mostly poor people. They haven't been in contact with their family. They have no word at all. A lot of them are pretty devastated. You had a lot of grown men breaking down and boohooing when you talked to them. The warden said they hadn't had food or water for two or three days. So a lot of them were just grateful to be out of the sun, in an air-conditioned place where they could find food and a shower and a mattress."

In addition to the logistical problems of setting up courts, finding a place to meet, and getting judges, lawyers and evidence, a major question looms about how to pay for the defense of indigent detainees. Louisiana has been in a low-grade crisis for years over the issue, and currently two-thirds of the money to defend those too poor to afford lawyers comes from court costs for traffic and parking offenses.

But with the evacuation of New Orleans and its environs, none of that money will be available.

Legal officials say that without a quick resolution of the problem the state may be forced to apportion cases to public defenders on a level that makes adequate representation impossible or to free prisoners rather than violate their constitutional right to a speedy trial.

More than a week after the storm, not all the news is bad. Some law firms, particularly larger ones with offices outside New Orleans, have reorganized with remarkable speed, saving records electronically, finding new space and housing for lawyers in Baton Rouge Lafayette, Houston, or other areas.

Lawyers at McGlinchey Stafford, a firm of about 200 lawyers based in New Orleans and with offices in Baton Rouge and other cities, were among the lucky ones. The lawyers, support staff and their families left New Orleans in advance of the storm as partners in its Baton Rouge office worked to find them housing and office space, said Rudy Aguilar, managing partner of the firm.

After the storm, Mr. Aguilar said, the firm put two college students whose parents worked for the firm on a plane to Chicago to buy computers for the new office space. The students rented a truck and drove the computers back to Baton Rouge for the new office, which by Labor Day was up and running, he said.

Within days, Rick Stanley of Stanley, Flanagan & Reuter, an 11-lawyer litigation firm had people working in borrowed space in offices in Baton Rouge and Lafayette and at homes in Jackson, Miss., and Amarillo, Tex. On Labor Day, Mr. Stanley signed a lease for new space in Baton Rouge on the hood of his car in a Home Depot parking lot.

"The Monday of the storm," he said, "I was in a state of shock, realizing the whole way of life we knew had passed away, and Tuesday I just said we need to get back up and running, and we did."

And some say, with the perverse logic of the law, Hurricane Katrina - months from now, when people return home - will spawn an unimaginable flood of legal issues. Beth Abramson who is organizing pro bono efforts for the state bar anticipates a torrent of legal issues having to do with ruined property, insurance, environmental issues and countless other concerns.

Michelle Ghetti, a law professor at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge said some courts and lawyers moved faster than she could have imagined to shift operations and resume business. On the other hand, the legal issues posed by the storm multiply almost daily.

"Someone just mentioned child molesters," Ms. Ghetti said. "There's a registry in which people are supposed to be notified where they are. But for all we know, they're in shelters or being taken into people's homes.

"New things come up every day. I think this storm is going to produce more legal issues and complications than anyone has ever imagined."

 

Peter Applebome reported from Baton Rouge for this article

and Jonathan D. Glater from New York.

    A Legal System in Shambles, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09legal.html

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Thanks Nations

for Storm Recovery Aid

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times
By ALEX BERENSON
and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 9 - President Bush thanked foreign governments this morning for their support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, comparing it to the international response to the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks.

"In this time of struggle, the American people need to know we're not struggling alone," he said. "I want to thank the world community for its prayers and for the offers of assistance that have come from all around the world."

President Bush noted that Air Canada had helped in evacuating residents, that Afghanistan had offered to send $100,000 to aid victims, and that Kuwait had volunteered to provide $400 million in oil and $100 million in humanitarian aid.

In Brussels, NATO commanders agreed in an emergency meeting today to provide ships and planes to help deliver aid to the victims in the United States, Reuters reported. The planes are expected to arrive in the next few days but the ships could take nearly two weeks.

The aid was requested by the United States on Thursday. Agreeing to provide it "was a very quick and very easy decision," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said, according to Reuters.

In New Orleans, police officers and federal law enforcement agents continued to scour the city seeking residents who have holed up to avoid forcible eviction, as well as those who are still considering evacuating voluntarily to escape the city's putrid waters.

"Individuals are at risk of dying," P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of the New Orleans police, said Thursday. "There's nothing more important than the preservation of human life."

Police said Thursday that the search for residents willing to leave voluntarily was about 80 percent finished, and that afterward they would begin enforcing Mayor C. Ray Nagin's order to remove people by force.

But this morning, confusion remained how widespread the forced evacuations would be, or when they would begin.

Mitch Landrieu, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana, told CNN this morning that those remaining in their homes were not yet being forcibly removed as a matter of state policy. Any removal by force that has taken place, he said, was "probably the exception rather than the rule." Mr. Landrieu added that the issue of forcible removal is still under consideration.

The White House said today that Mr. Bush would return to Mississippi and Louisiana on Sunday, his third visit to the area since Hurricane Katrina hit land on Aug. 29. He will travel there after participating in a ceremony marking the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his spokesman, Scott McClellan, said this morning.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush urged the nearly one million people displaced by the storm to contact federal agencies to apply for immediate aid. He praised the outpouring of private charity to the displaced, but said the costs of restoring lives would affect all Americans, as would the horror of the storm's carnage.

"The responsibility of caring for hundreds of thousands of citizens who no longer have homes is going to place many demands on our nation," the president said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "We have many difficult days ahead, especially as we recover those who did not survive the storm."

As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney was touring Mississippi and Louisiana, in part as an answer to the critics who have said that the administration responded too slowly and timidly to the epic disaster. At a stop in Gulfport, Miss., a heckler shouted an obscenity at the vice president. Mr. Cheney shrugged it off, saying it was the first such abuse he had heard.

Also on Thursday, Congress approved a $51.8 billion package of storm aid, bringing the total to more than $62 billion in a week. The government is now spending $2 billion dollars a day to respond to the disaster.

The confirmed death toll in Louisiana remained at 83 on Thursday. Efforts to recover corpses are beginning, although only a handful of bodies have been recovered so far. Official estimates of the death toll in New Orleans are still vague, but 10,000 remains a common figure.

Mississippi officials said they had confirmed 196 dead as of Thursday, including 143 in coastal areas, although Gov. Haley Barbour said he expected the toll to rise.

"It would just be a guess, but the 200 or just over 300 we think is a credible and reliable figure," the governor said on NBC's "Today" show.

He also said electricity would be restored by Sunday to most homes and businesses in the state that could receive it.

No one would venture a prediction about when the lights would come back on in New Orleans.

The water continued to recede slowly in the city 10 days after Hurricane Katrina swept ashore and levees failed at several points, inundating the basin New Orleans sits in.

The Army Corps of Engineers has restored to operation 37 of the city's 174 permanent pumps, allowing them to drain 11,000 cubic feet of water per second from the basin. When all the pumps are working, they can remove 81,000 cubic feet of water per second, said Dan Hitchings of the engineering corps.

It will be months before the breadth of the devastation from the storm is known. But a report by the Louisiana fisheries department calculated the economic loss to the state's important seafood industry at as much as $1.6 billion over the next 12 months.

Louisiana's insurance commissioner, J. Robert Wooley, said the state had barred insurance companies from canceling any homeowner's insurance policies in the days immediately before the storm hit and afterward.

"All cancellations will be voided," Mr. Wooley said.

Across New Orleans, active-duty soldiers, National Guard members and local law enforcement agencies from across the country continued door-to-door searches by patrol car, Humvee, helicopter and boat, urging remaining residents to leave.

Maj. Gen. James Ron Mason of the Kansas National Guard, who commands about 25,000 Guard troops in and around New Orleans, said his forces had rescued 687 residents by helicopter, boat and high-wheeled truck in the past 24 hours.

General Mason said Guard troops, although carrying M-16 rifles, would not use force to evict recalcitrant citizens. That, he said, was a job for the police, not members of the Guard.

"I don't believe that you will see National Guard soldiers actually physically forcing people to leave," General Mason said.

Mr. Compass, the police superintendent, said that after a week of near anarchy in the city, no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

That order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16s and other assault rifles.

Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.

New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers. While armed looters roamed unchecked last week, the city is now calm.

The city's slow recovery is continuing on other fronts as well, local officials said at a late morning news conference. Pumping stations are now operating across much of the city, and many taps and fire hydrants have water pressure. Tests have shown no evidence of cholera or other dangerous diseases in flooded areas.

With pumps running and the weather here remaining hot and dry, water has visibly receded across much of the city. Formerly flooded streets are now passable, although covered with leaves, tree branches and mud.

Still, many neighborhoods in the northern half of New Orleans remain under 10 feet of water, and Mr. Compass said Thursday that the city's plans for a forced evacuation remained in effect because of the danger of disease and fires.

Mr. Compass said he could not disclose when residents might be forced to leave en masse. The city's police department and federal law enforcement officers from agencies like United States Marshals Service will lead the evacuation, he said. Officers will search houses in both dry and flooded neighborhoods, and no one will be allowed to stay, he said.

Many of the residents still in the city said they did not understand why the city remained intent on forcing them out.

 

Alex Berenson reported from New Orleans for this article and Timothy Williams from New York.

Reporting was contributed by Sewell Chan from New Orleans; Jeremy Alford, Shaila Dewan and John M. Broder from Baton Rouge, La.; Ralph Blumenthal from Houston, and Marek Fuchs from New York.

    Bush Thanks Nations for Storm Recovery Aid, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

From Falluja to the Shores of Louisiana

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times
By JOHN KIFNER

 

SLIDELL, La., Sept. 8 - In November, the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, fought the most pitched battle of the Iraq war, attacking insurgents dug into mosques and narrow streets until the city of Falluja was virtually leveled.

Today, many of the same marines are helping this hurricane-battered city inch toward recovery, shoveling stinking mud from a church and roaming the streets in a borrowed pickup delivering food, water and ice to needy families.

"These are the guys who fought the battle of Falluja," said Maj. Lew Vogler, the battalion's executive officer. "Now we're taking care of Slidell, La., with the same professionalism. We've got the muscle and the manpower to get it done."

At the First Baptist Church, First Lt. Paul Steketee and Cpl. Edwin Maldonado were getting makeshift waders made from black plastic garbage bags wrapped around their legs with duct tape by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Aikman as they prepared to clean out the church's putrid kitchen. Some 500 pounds of meat, milk and cheese rotted when the power went out.

"Oh, it's ugly back there," said Bruce Efferson, 56, a minister at the 1,300-member church.

Other marines were shoveling mud from the floors, stripping ruined wallpaper and lugging textbooks to the higher shelves of the church's school, which serves 400 students.

"These boys have humped," Mr. Efferson said of the marine work crew. "And I'm ex-Navy; I'm used to making fun of marines."

Outside the church, the aid from volunteers swelled. A dozen volunteers in yellow T-shirts from the Noonday Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., presided over relief supplies stretched along the driveway: generators, chain saws, wheelbarrows, bottled water, canned food, rice, Kool-Aid, clothes, soap and shampoo.

Mr. Efferson, who said he ran bars and nightclubs before becoming a Christian, observed the scene and said, "God's still alive."

Some of the marines roamed the area in Mr. Efferson's white Dodge pickup with a city map and a bullhorn. Riding in the bed of the truck with the supplies of food, water and ice were three lance corporals who are usually scout-snipers, one of the deadliest specialties in the Marines.

As they drove past houses that had been reduced to heaps of wood and that had been crushed by boats from a canal, they found a family of six who were grateful for the meals-ready-to-eat that the marines were delivering. "I'm glad you like them," Lieutenant Steketee said dryly.

    From Falluja to the Shores of Louisiana, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09marines.html

 

 

 

 

 

Political Issues

Snarled Plans for Troop Aid

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON, ERIC SCHMITT
and THOM SHANKER

 

This article was reported and written

by Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.

For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort.

Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control. The debate was triggered as officials began to realize that Hurricane Katrina exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior homeland security officials, the hurricane showed the failure of their plan to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated and unable to act quickly until reinforcements arrive on the scene.

As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid. Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis.

To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Governor Blanco would have resisted surrendering control of the military relief mission as Bush Administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established. While troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.

But just as important to the administration were worries about the message that would have been sent by a president ousting a Southern governor of another party from command of her National Guard, according to administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials.

"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

"I need everything you have got," Governor Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Tuesday, when New Orleans flooded. In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that. I thought that I had requested everything they had," she said. "We were living in a war zone by then."

The governor illustrated her stance when, overnight Friday, she rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general - but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana Guard.

Also at issue was whether active-duty troops could respond faster and in larger numbers than National Guard soldiers.

By last Wednesday, Pentagon officials said even the 82nd Airborne, which has a brigade on standby to move out within 18 hours - could not arrive any faster than 7,000 National Guard troops, which are specially trained and equipped for civilian law enforcement duties. In the end, the flow of thousands of National Guard soldiers, especially military police, was accelerated from other states.

"I was there. I saw what needed to be done," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in an interview. "They were the fastest, best-capable, most appropriate force to get there in the time allowed. And that's what it's all about."

But one senior Army officer expressed puzzlement that active-duty troops were not summoned sooner, saying that 82nd Airborne troops were ready to move out from Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Sunday, the day before the hurricane hit.

But the call never came, in part because military officials believed National Guard troops would get there faster and because administration civilians were worried that there could be political fallout if federal troops were forced to shoot looters, administration officials said.

Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the director of operations for the military's Joint Staff, said that the Pentagon in August streamlined a rigid, decades-old system of deployment orders to allow the Northern Command to dispatch liaisons to work with local officials in advance of an approaching hurricane.

The Pentagon is reviewing events from the time the hurricane reached full strength and bore down on New Orleans and five days later when Mr. Bush ordered 7,200 active-duty soldiers and Marines to the scene.

After the hurricane passed New Orleans and the levees broke, flooding the city, it became increasingly evident that disaster response efforts were badly bogged down.

Justice Department lawyers, who were receiving harrowing reports from the area, considered whether active-duty military units could be brought into relief operations even if state authorities gave their consent - or even if they refused.

The issue of federalizing the response was one of a number of legal issues considered in a flurry of meetings at the Justice Department, the White House and other agencies, administration officials said.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales urged Justice lawyers to interpret the federal law creatively to assist local authorities. For example, federal prosecutors prepared to expand their enforcement of some criminal statutes like anti-carjacking laws that can be prosecuted by either state or federal authorities.

On the issue of whether the military could be deployed without the invitation of state officials, the Office of Legal Counsel, the unit within the Justice Department that provides legal advice to federal agencies, concluded that the federal government did possess authority to move in even over the objection of local officials.

This act was last invoked in 1992 for the Los Angeles riots, but at the request of Gov. Pete Wilson of California, and has not been invoked over a governor's objections since the civil rights era - and before that, to the time of the Civil War, according to administration officials. Bush administration, Pentagon and senior military officials warned that such an extreme measure would have serious legal and political implications.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said that deployment of National Guard soldiers to Iraq, including a brigade from Louisiana, did not affect the relief mission, but Governor Blanco said her state troops were missed. "Over the last year we have had about 5,000 out, at one time," Governor Blanco said. "They are on active duty, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That certainly is a factor."

By Friday, National Guard reinforcements had arrived, and a truck convoy of 1,000 Guard soldiers brought relief supplies - and order - to the convention center area.

Homeland Security officials say that the experience with Katrina has demonstrated flaws in the nation's plans to handle disaster.

"This event has exposed, perhaps ultimately to our benefit, a deficiency in terms of replacing first responders who tragically may be the first casualties," Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, said.

Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, has suggested the active-duty troops be trained and equipped to intervene if front-line emergency personnel are stricken. But the Pentagon's leadership remains unconvinced that this plan is sound, suggesting instead that the national emergency response plans should be revised to draw reinforcements initially from civilian police, firefighters, medical personnel and hazardous-waste experts in other states not affected by a disaster.

The federal government rewrote its national emergency response plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, but it relied on local officials to manage any crisis in its opening days. But Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed local "first responders," including civilian police and the National Guard.

At a news conference Saturday, Mr. Chertoff said: "The unusual set of challenges of conducting a massive evacuation in the context of a still dangerous flood, requires us to basically break the traditional model and create a new model, one for what you might call kind of an ultra-catastrophe. And that's one in which we are using the military, still within the framework of the law, to come in and really handle the evacuation, handle all of the associated elements. And that, of course, frees the National Guard up to do a security mission."

Mr. McHale, while agreeing with the problem, offered different remedies. "It is foreseeable to envision a catastrophic explosion that would kill virtually every police officer within miles of the attack," he said. "Therefore we are going to have to reexamine our ability to back-fill first responder capabilities that may be degraded or destroyed during the initial event."

He continued, "What we now have to look toward is perhaps a regional capability, probably within the civilian sector, that can be deployed to a city when that city's infrastructure and first responder capability has been destroyed by the event itself."

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker reported from Washington, and Eric Lipton from Baton Rouge, La., for this article. David Johnston contributed reporting.

    Political Issues Snarled Plans for Troop Aid, NYT, 9.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09military.html

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Leaves Legal System a Shambles

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times
By PETER APPLEBOME
and JONATHAN D. GLATER

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 8 - At Rapides Parish Detention Center 3 in Alexandria, which normally holds convicted felons, there are now 200 new inmates who arrived hot, hungry and exhausted on buses this week after being evacuated from flooded jails in New Orleans.

They have no paperwork indicating whether they are charged with having too much to drink or attempted murder. There is no judge to hear their cases, no courthouse designated to hear them in and no lawyer to represent them. If lawyers can be found, there is no mechanism for paying them. The prisoners have had no contact with their families for days and do not know whether they are alive or dead, if their homes do or do not exist.

"It's like taking a jail and shaking it up in a fruit-basket turnover, so no one has any idea who these people are or why they're here," said Phyllis Mann, one of several local lawyers who were at the detention center until 11 p.m. Wednesday, trying to collect basic information on the inmates. "There is no system of any kind for taking care of these people at this point."

Along with the destruction of homes, neighborhoods and lives, Hurricane Katrina decimated the legal system of the New Orleans region.

More than a third of the state's lawyers have lost their offices, some for good. Most computer records will be saved. Many other records will be lost forever. Some local courthouses have been flooded, imperiling a vast universe of files, records and documents. Court proceedings from divorces to murder trials, to corporate litigation, to custody cases will be indefinitely halted and when proceedings resume lawyers will face prodigious - if not insurmountable - obstacles in finding witnesses and principals and in recovering evidence.

It is an implosion of the legal network not seen since disasters like the Chicago fire of 1871 or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, events in times so much simpler as to be useless in making much sense of this one.

"There aren't too many catastrophes that have just wiped out entire cities," said Robert Gordon, a professor at Yale Law School who teaches legal history.

The effects on individual lawyers vary, from large firms that have already been able to find space, contact clients and resume working on cases, to individual lawyers who fear they may never be able to put their practices back together. But the storm has left even prominent lawyers wondering whether they will have anything to go back to.

William Rittenberg, former president of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a lawyer for 35 years in New Orleans, said he had spent the time since the storm living like a gypsy with his wife and two dogs, moving from Columbus, Miss., to Houston to San Antonio. Mr. Rittenberg said that his firm's main client had been the teachers union for the New Orleans schools, but that there is no way to know when or if school will resume this year.

"I really don't know if I have a law practice anymore," he said.

Some logistical issues are being addressed as the courts scramble to find new places to set up shop. The Louisiana Supreme Court is moving its operations from New Orleans to a circuit court in Baton Rouge. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is moving to Houston, and electronic technology has allowed lawyers and courts to save files and documents in a way that would have been impossible in the past.

But the biggest immediate problem is with criminal courts in southern Louisiana, with thousands of detainees awaiting hearings and trials who have been thrust into a legal limbo without courts, trials, or lawyers.

So in Alexandria, a city in central Louisiana, in a scene repeated at prisons and jails throughout the state, Ms. Mann said she and other lawyers had interviewed all 200 inmates, and the criminal defense lawyers' organization was painstakingly trying to compile a registry of prisoners and lawyers. The goal is to put them together, though many of the prisoners do not yet have lawyers and many of the lawyers are scattered across the country.

Ms. Mann said that some prisoners, no doubt, were accused of serious crimes, but that most had been arrested on misdemeanor charges like drunkenness that typically fill local lockups. Most were either awaiting hearings or had not been able to make bond and were awaiting trial, which, for many, had been set for the day the hurricane hit.

"I talked to one guy who was arrested for reading a tarot card without a permit," she said. "These are mostly poor people. They haven't been in contact with their family. They have no word at all. A lot of them are pretty devastated. You had a lot of grown men breaking down and boohooing when you talked to them. The warden said they hadn't had food or water for two or three days. So a lot of them were just grateful to be out of the sun, in an air-conditioned place where they could find food and a shower and a mattress."

In addition to the logistical problems of setting up courts, finding a place to meet, and getting judges, lawyers and evidence, a major question looms about how to pay for the defense of indigent detainees. Louisiana has been in a low-grade crisis for years over the issue, and currently two-thirds of the money to defend those too poor to afford lawyers comes from court costs for traffic and parking offenses.

But with the evacuation of New Orleans and its environs, none of that money will be available.

Legal officials say that without a quick resolution of the problem the state may be forced to apportion cases to public defenders on a level that makes adequate representation impossible or to free prisoners rather than violate their constitutional right to a speedy trial.

More than a week after the storm, not all the news is bad. Some law firms, particularly larger ones with offices outside New Orleans, have reorganized with remarkable speed, saving records electronically, finding new space and housing for lawyers in Baton Rouge Lafayette, Houston, or other areas.

Lawyers at McGlinchey Stafford, a firm of about 200 lawyers based in New Orleans and with offices in Baton Rouge and other cities, were among the lucky ones. The lawyers, support staff and their families left New Orleans in advance of the storm as partners in its Baton Rouge office worked to find them housing and office space, said Rudy Aguilar, managing partner of the firm.

After the storm, Mr. Aguilar said, the firm put two college students whose parents worked for the firm on a plane to Chicago to buy computers for the new office space. The students rented a truck and drove the computers back to Baton Rouge for the new office, which by Labor Day was up and running, he said.

Within days, Rick Stanley of Stanley, Flanagan & Reuter, an 11-lawyer litigation firm had people working in borrowed space in offices in Baton Rouge and Lafayette and at homes in Jackson, Miss., and Amarillo, Tex. On Labor Day, Mr. Stanley signed a lease for new space in Baton Rouge on the hood of his car in a Home Depot parking lot.

"The Monday of the storm," he said, "I was in a state of shock, realizing the whole way of life we knew had passed away, and Tuesday I just said we need to get back up and running, and we did."

And some say, with the perverse logic of the law, Hurricane Katrina - months from now, when people return home - will spawn an unimaginable flood of legal issues. Beth Abramson who is organizing pro bono efforts for the state bar anticipates a torrent of legal issues having to do with ruined property, insurance, environmental issues and countless other concerns.

Michelle Ghetti, a law professor at the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge said some courts and lawyers moved faster than she could have imagined to shift operations and resume business. On the other hand, the legal issues posed by the storm multiply almost daily.

"Someone just mentioned child molesters," Ms. Ghetti said. "There's a registry in which people are supposed to be notified where they are. But for all we know, they're in shelters or being taken into people's homes.

"New things come up every day. I think this storm is going to produce more legal issues and complications than anyone has ever imagined."

Peter Applebome reported from Baton Rouge for this article and Jonathan D. Glater from New York.

    Storm Leaves Legal System a Shambles, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09legal.html

 

 

 

 

 

Holdouts on Dry Ground Say,

'Why Leave Now?'

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By ALEX BERENSON

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - Ten days ago, the water rose to the front steps of their house. Four days ago, it began falling. But only now is the city demanding that Richie Kay and Emily Harris get out.

They cannot understand why. They live on high ground in the Bywater neighborhood, and their house escaped structural damage. They are healthy and have enough food and water to last almost a year.

They have a dog to protect them, a car with a full tank of gasoline should they need to leave quickly and a canoe as a last resort. They said they used it last week to rescue 100 people.

"We're not the people they need to be taking out," Mr. Kay said. "We're the people they need to be coordinating with."

Scattered throughout the dry neighborhoods of New Orleans, which are growing larger each day as pumps push water out of the city, are people like Mr. Kay and Ms. Harris. They are defying Mayor C. Ray Nagin's orders to leave, contending that he will violate their constitutional rights if he forces them out of the homes they own or rent.

"We have food, we have water, we have antibiotics," said Kenneth Charles Kinler, who is living with four other men on Marais Street, which was covered with almost four feet of water last week but is now dry. "We're more or less watching the area for looters."

Mr. Nagin has said the city is not safe for civilians because of the risk of fire and water-borne diseases. There was no official word on Thursday about when the police would start to evict residents forcibly, but officers have been knocking on doors to plead with people to leave on their own.

"Unless you have enough food or water for three weeks, you're a walking dead man," Sgt. George Jackson told holdouts on the northern edge of the city on Thursday afternoon.

To reduce the risk of violent confrontation, the police began confiscating firearms on Thursday, even those legally owned.

To be sure, many of the thousands of people remaining in New Orleans want to leave, especially in neighborhoods where the water continues to stand several feet deep. Hundreds of people a day are being ferried to the convention center by National Guard troops in five-ton trucks and then bused outside the city.

Some holdouts may change their minds as their food and water run out. Some appear mentally incompetent or have houses in severely flooded neighborhoods and are staying in the city in the mistaken hope that they will be able to go home in a few days.

But thousands more do not fall in any of those categories. They are sitting on dry ground with all their belongings and plenty of provisions. They say they want to stay to help rebuild their city and maybe earn some money doing it, because they have animals they are afraid to leave behind, or to protect their property or simply because they have always lived here and see no reason to move their lives to a motel room in Houston or San Antonio.

Billie Moore, who lives in an undamaged 3,000-square-foot house on the city's southwestern flank that also stayed dry, said she did not want to lose her job as a pediatric nurse at the Ochsner Clinic in Jefferson Parish, which continues to function.

"Who's going to take care of the patients if all the nurses go away?" Ms. Moore asked.

When police officers arrived at her house to warn of the health risks of remaining, she showed them her hospital identification card.

"I guess you know the health risks then," the officer said.

Ms. Moore and her husband, Richard Robinson, have been using an old gas stove to cook pasta and rice, dumping cans of peas on top for flavor.

"We try to be normal and sit down and eat," Ms. Moore, 52, said. "I think that how we'll stay healthy is if I keep the house clean."

Power remains out in most of the city, and even where the tap water is flowing, it is not drinkable. Bathing and using the toilet are daily challenges. Many residents are siphoning water from swimming pools and fountains.

Some holdouts seem intent on keeping alive the distinct and wild spirit of this city. In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found a unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic.

On Thursday morning on St. Claude Avenue, a commercial strip in Bywater, east of downtown, about 12 people congregated inside and in front of Kajun's Pub, drinking and smoking. Inside, the bar looked dank, but a fan swirled air overhead and a television set in the corner showed local news, both fired by the bar's portable generator.

"New Orleans has been my home for 20 years," said Kenny Dobbs, who celebrated his 35th birthday at the bar after the flood. "I've been on my own since I was 14."

Like other people, Mr. Dobbs said, he believed that the city had exaggerated the health risks of staying, as a scare tactic. The city simply wants to force people out so that its reconstruction will go more smoothly, he said.

"Why do you think they're evacuating people?" he asked. "So they don't have as much to deal with."

The police and federal law enforcement officials have depicted many of those staying as looters waiting to pounce, though the holdouts said that they were actually protecting their neighborhoods from crime and that their steady presence is a greater deterrent than the occasional police patrol.

While residents and some legal experts question the constitutionality of forced evacuations, those staying have no functioning courthouse in the city to hear their complaints, and no state or federal authorities have stepped in to stop the plan.

In general, residents say the active-duty soldiers and National Guard troops had treated them well. Local police officers, many of them working for almost two weeks straight and having lost families or possessions, have been much more aggressive, Mr. Dobbs said.

Two New Orleans police officers stole $50 and a bottle of whiskey from him last week after finding him on the street after dark, he said.

With police officers and federal law enforcement agents ratcheting up the pressure on residents to leave, the holdouts worry that it is just a matter of time before they are forced out.

Ms. Harris said she did not want to leave. "I haven't even run out of weed yet," she said.

But she but knows that fighting with police officers is futile.

"I'll probably bitch and moan, but I'm not going to hole up," she said.

And by Thursday afternoon, Kajun's Pub had closed, and the vehicles previously parked outside were gone.

There was no indication whether Mr. Dobbs and the other people who had been drinking and joking six hours earlier had been evacuated or simply disappeared into the city.

Jodi Wilgoren contributed reporting for this article.

    Holdouts on Dry Ground Say, 'Why Leave Now?', NYT, 9.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09holdouts.html

 

 

 

 

 

Police Begin Seizing Guns of Civilians

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By ALEX BERENSON
and JOHN M. BRODER

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - Local police officers began confiscating weapons from civilians in preparation for a forced evacuation of the last holdouts still living here, as President Bush steeled the nation for the grisly scenes of recovering the dead that will unfold in coming days.

Police officers and federal law enforcement agents scoured the city carrying assault rifles seeking residents who have holed up to avoid forcible eviction, as well as those who are still considering evacuating voluntarily to escape the city's putrid waters.

"Individuals are at risk of dying," said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of the New Orleans police. "There's nothing more important than the preservation of human life."

Although it appeared Wednesday night that forced evacuations were beginning, on Thursday the authorities were still looking for those willing to leave voluntarily. The police said that the search was about 80 percent done, and that afterward they would begin enforcing Mayor C. Ray Nagin's order to remove residents by force.

Mr. Bush, in Washington, urged the nearly one million people displaced by the storm to contact federal agencies to apply for immediate aid. He praised the outpouring of private charity to the displaced, but said the costs of restoring lives would affect all Americans, as would the horror of the storm's carnage.

"The responsibility of caring for hundreds of thousands of citizens who no longer have homes is going to place many demands on our nation," the president said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "We have many difficult days ahead, especially as we recover those who did not survive the storm."

As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney was touring Mississippi and Louisiana, in part as an answer to the critics who have said that the administration responded too slowly and timidly to the epic disaster. At a stop in Gulfport, Miss., a heckler shouted an obscenity at the vice president. Mr. Cheney shrugged it off, saying it was the first such abuse he had heard.

Also on Thursday, Congress approved a $51.8 billion package of storm aid, bringing the total to more than $62 billion in a week. The government is now spending $2 billion dollars a day to respond to the disaster.

The confirmed death toll in Louisiana remained at 83 on Thursday. Efforts to recover corpses are beginning, although only a handful of bodies have been recovered so far. Official estimates of the death toll in New Orleans are still vague, but 10,000 remains a common figure.

Mississippi officials said they had confirmed 196 dead as of Thursday, including 143 in coastal areas, although Gov. Haley Barbour said he expected the toll to rise.

"It would just be a guess, but the 200 or just over 300 we think is a credible and reliable figure," the governor said on NBC's "Today" show.

He also said electricity would be restored by Sunday to most homes and businesses in the state that could receive it.

No one would venture a prediction about when the lights would come back on in New Orleans.

The water continued to recede slowly in the city 10 days after Hurricane Katrina swept ashore and levees failed at several points, inundating the basin New Orleans sits in.

The Army Corps of Engineers has restored to operation 37 of the city's 174 permanent pumps, allowing them to drain 11,000 cubic feet of water per second from the basin. When all the pumps are working, they can remove 81,000 cubic feet of water per second, said Dan Hitchings of the engineering corps.

It will be months before the breadth of the devastation from the storm is known. But a report by the Louisiana fisheries department calculated the economic loss to the state's important seafood industry at as much as $1.6 billion over the next 12 months.

Louisiana's insurance commissioner, J. Robert Wooley, said the state had barred insurance companies from canceling any homeowner's insurance policies in the days immediately before the storm hit and afterward.

"All cancellations will be voided," Mr. Wooley said.

Across New Orleans, active-duty soldiers, National Guard members and local law enforcement agencies from across the country continued door-to-door searches by patrol car, Humvee, helicopter and boat, urging remaining residents to leave.

Maj. Gen. James Ron Mason of the Kansas National Guard, who commands about 25,000 Guard troops in and around New Orleans, said his forces had rescued 687 residents by helicopter, boat and high-wheeled truck in the past 24 hours.

General Mason said Guard troops, although carrying M-16 rifles, would not use force to evict recalcitrant citizens. That, he said, was a job for the police, not members of the Guard.

"I don't believe that you will see National Guard soldiers actually physically forcing people to leave," General Mason said.

Mr. Compass, the police superintendent, said that after a week of near anarchy in the city, no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns, or other firearms of any kind. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

That order apparently does not apply to the hundreds of security guards whom businesses and some wealthy individuals have hired to protect their property. The guards, who are civilians working for private security firms like Blackwater, are openly carrying M-16s and other assault rifles.

Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.

New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers. While armed looters roamed unchecked last week, the city is now calm.

The city's slow recovery is continuing on other fronts as well, local officials said at a late morning news conference. Pumping stations are now operating across much of the city, and many taps and fire hydrants have water pressure. Tests have shown no evidence of cholera or other dangerous diseases in flooded areas.

With pumps running and the weather here remaining hot and dry, water has visibly receded across much of the city. Formerly flooded streets are now passable, although covered with leaves, tree branches and mud.

Still, many neighborhoods in the northern half of New Orleans remain under 10 feet of water, and Mr. Compass said Thursday that the city's plans for a forced evacuation remained in effect because of the danger of disease and fires.

Mr. Compass said he could not disclose when residents might be forced to leave en masse. The city's police department and federal law enforcement officers from agencies like United States Marshals Service will lead the evacuation, he said. Officers will search houses in both dry and flooded neighborhoods, and no one will be allowed to stay, he said.

Many of the residents still in the city said they did not understand why the city remained intent on forcing them out.

Alex Berensonreported from New Orleans for this article, and John M. Broder from Baton Rouge, La. Reporting was contributed by Sewell Chan from New Orleans, Jeremy Alford and Shaila Dewan from Baton Rouge and Ralph Blumenthal from Houston.

    Police Begin Seizing Guns of Civilians, NYT, 9.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09storm.html

 

 

 

 

 


Leader Who Rose in 9/11

Slips in Wake of Storm

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - Nine days after the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress and rallied the nation to a new mission.

On Thursday, nine days after it became apparent that New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush stood in an auditorium across the street from the White House and directed storm victims to a Web site and a toll-free telephone number.

"We have 3,000 people working around the clock to take the calls," he said.

There are obvious differences between the situations. But while the first showed Mr. Bush capable of commanding the nation's attention, transcending partisanship and clearly articulating a set of goals, the second has left him groping to find his voice and set out a vision of how the government and the American people should respond.

He still has opportunities to exhibit the leadership and strategic vision that his critics - and even some supporters - say has been missing from his response to the storm. He will no doubt return to the region in coming days, and once the gruesome task of recovering bodies is complete, the White House is sure to begin offering proposals for rebuilding.

But as Thursday's performance made clear, he has remained small bore in addressing the crisis, casting himself more as a manager than a leader. And as someone who regularly cites the virtues of limited government, he has been somewhat out of character in unleashing rather than reining in the kinds of social welfare programs he urged the storm's victims to sign up for on Thursday.

To some degree, Mr. Bush is a victim of the standard he set after Sept. 11 in defining a problem and directing the full power of the government to address it. While the results are open to debate, he put the nation on a path and stuck to it.

In this case, there is no easily definable enemy, his own government's failures are under attack in a way they were not immediately after the terrorist attacks, the country is even more politically polarized than it was four years ago and Mr. Bush himself appears tentative.

"What are we going to do in this one, blame God?" said Michael K. Deaver, who as President Ronald Reagan's communications adviser was an acknowledged master of employing presidential imagery.

"Having said all that," Mr. Deaver said, "I still think the president needs to address the American people, not through an event but directly through a 'My fellow Americans' speech. It would be good to have a leader to tell us how we're going to do this."

Mr. Bush's public appearances since the storm have frequently been off key. He has praised the performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for instance, and he has recalled his days of carousing in New Orleans. As he spoke to the cameras on Thursday, he reached for a few high notes. He declared Sept. 16 a national day of prayer, asking that Americans pray "with confidence in his purpose, with hope for a brighter future."

But most of the rest of his speech was a guide to government assistance programs, including Medicaid, assistance for needy families, food stamps, housing and job training, many of which he has tried to trim in the name of leaner government.

"The real irony is that after five years of seeking cuts in just about all these programs, he's now acknowledging their necessity as a safety net," said Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

It did not help that one aspect of the main initiative laid out by Mr. Bush on Thursday, a plan to put $2,000 in the hands of every household that needs it because of the storm, quickly became a source of confusion. A FEMA spokesman in Baton Rouge said the agency was canceling a program under which it was providing the $2,000 to families at the Astrodome in the form of debit cards, saying it would instead try to distribute the money through checks and direct deposit. Later, that official was contradicted by another FEMA official, in Washington.

Mr. Bush's effort to strike a compassionate tone were also complicated by his decision to waive a requirement that employers who receive federal government contracts related to the relief effort pay their workers the prevailing wages for that kind of work in the area it is being done. The White House said the change was made to save the government money. John J. Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O, called it "unbelievable and outrageous."

This is a White House that disdains reacting to the political climate of the moment and prides itself on not panicking when the president's poll numbers drop. Mr. Bush, fortified by a well-tended conservative base that has stuck by him through thick and thin, has slogged through the bad times until he reaches friendlier ground.

Still, the president faces clear dangers and political challenges in reversing the impression that he, along with state and local officials, mishandled the crisis. In a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan polling organization, two-thirds of respondents said Mr. Bush could have done more to speed relief efforts, and the number of respondents who said they disapproved of his performance jumped to 52 percent, from 48 percent in July and 43 percent in January.

His overall approval rating, by comparison, was 40 percent, down 10 percentage points since January and 4 percentage points since July; it even dropped sharply among his base, including those who identified themselves as Republicans (to 79 percent from 88 percent in July) and among those who identified themselves as conservative Republicans (to 84 percent from 91 percent). But the Pew poll found a sharp racial divide in perceptions of the catastrophe: 66 percent of blacks said the government's response would have been quicker had the victims been mostly white; 77 percent of whites disagreed. The poll of 1,000 Americans was taken Sept. 6 and Sept. 7 and had a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.

"His image as a strong leader has been undercut dramatically," said Mark Mellman, a Democratic strategist.

"I don't think he's a tremendously effective communicator," Mr. Mellman said, "but he inspires trust as a regular guy. But people have to trust in something. When he's not offering anything other than Web sites and phone numbers, there's nothing in which to trust."

Some Republicans said that the criticism of Mr. Bush had been overblown and that he had properly been focusing first on rescue and relief operations. Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said the president showed "solid and steady leadership" on Thursday.

"I think the president is finding his voice," Mr. King said.

Raymond Hernandez contributed reporting for this article.

    Leader Who Rose in 9/11 Slips in Wake of Storm, NYT, 9.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09bush.html

 

 

 

 

 


'Going to Get It Done,'

Cheney Vows on Gulf Tour

 

September 9, 2005
The New York Times

By JODI WILGOREN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - For this disaster President Bush needed his second in command to be a visible presence, not a force operating from a secure undisclosed location. So Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday joined the blitz of administration officials tromping through the havoc the hurricane left, declaring, "We're making significant progress."

He walked a once-well-to-do block of Gulfport, Miss., where homes had been pulverized into piles of planks. He stood on a foul-smelling bridge here overlooking the sandbag-filled breach in the 17th Street Canal levee. And he defended the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal officials who have come under fire, while promising that the government could wage war in Iraq and recover from the hurricane without a tax increase.

"If there's a place on the face of the earth that has the resources to deal with these problems it's the United States of America, and we're going to get it done," Mr. Cheney said here in one of two rare question-and-answer sessions with reporters. "There's no question there were problems with respect to the evacuation in New Orleans. We've gotten around that problem now, and I think everyone's focused on the future."

In creased khakis and a crisp blue button-down shirt, his laminated schedule and a silver pen in his breast pocket, Mr. Cheney struck a sharply different pose than he did during the last national catastrophe, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when his leadership was considered so crucial that he was kept separate from President Bush and largely out of sight for weeks at a time.

He said he would return to the region on Saturday, most likely to the eye of the disaster-diaspora in Texas. Mr. Bush has visited the Gulf Coast twice in the past week, the secretaries of state and defense have made tours, and an array of cabinet officers is expected Friday.

Mr. Cheney expressed little emotion at what he had witnessed, instead taking the pragmatic problem-solver tack. Among the long-term issues he said he was concerned about were whether people without flood insurance would be covered under their homeowners' policies since the waters stemmed from a hurricane, how displaced people would receive their Social Security, unemployment and other government benefits, and long-term housing for evacuees.

In Gulfport, a block off the ocean on Second Street, in a neighborhood so devastated that residents needed permits to visit their destroyed properties and had to be out by dark, a heckler in an orange shirt hurled profanities twice to disrupt Mr. Cheney's remarks, but the vice president just smiled his lopsided smile and, when asked, said it was the first time he had heard such guff.

He got a better reception at the home of Becky Dubuisson, 51, an administrator at NASA, where a picket fence was washed up in the yard and the storm surge had come up to the first floor.

"You're out here sweating and sweating, putting on bug spray, and the vice president shows up - it lifts your spirits," said Dan Younghouse, Ms. Dubuisson's brother-in-law, who had come from Albertville, Ala., to help her clean. "With the magnitude of it all, where do you start? As far as I'm concerned, this is as good as could be expected."

In New Orleans, at the 17th Street Canal on the soaked border with suburban Metairie, Mr. Cheney leaned over to touch the 7,000-pound sandbags that Chinook helicopters had deposited into the levee breaches that let the floodwaters flow. Then he shook hands with about a hundred Coast Guard members who had spent more than a week rescuing stranded residents, and looked over the levee, where homes remained under water up to their second-story windows, and little more than the steeple was showing of the Pontchartrain Baptist Church.

A huge pipe pumped sludge-filled water the color of Army fatigues from the street back into the lake, a fire burned at one submerged house, and the toxic blend filled the air with a sulfurlike stench.

"You've got to recognize the severity of what Mother Nature did to us here," Mr. Cheney said when asked what had gone wrong in the hurricane's aftermath. He endorsed the notion of a Congressional committee's examining the response, but fretted at the politicization of the issue, saying the hurricane survivors he had met were not playing the blame game consuming much of Washington and Baton Rouge.

"Not one of them asks us those questions," he said. "They're not looking backwards. They're not worried about whether someone is a Republican or a Democrat. They're focused on the task at hand."

Asked in Mississippi whether FEMA should be headed by political appointees like its current director, Michael D. Brown, rather than career disaster professionals, Mr. Cheney said, "You got to have people at the top who respond to and are selected by presidents."

Mr. Cheney was traveling with his wife, Lynne; Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales - who made a side trip to the makeshift jail at a Greyhound station - and Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security. He was also joined here by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat, and Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana.

Governor Blanco, who had been critical of the administration's initial handling of the hurricane's aftermath, said after the visit, "I think the federal response is going to be more than adequate from here on out.

"We need them for the long haul by our side," she said as Mr. Cheney left for Baton Rouge, where he was debriefed at the state Emergency Operations Center. "I can walk with confidence that the federal government will stay by our side for many, many months to come."

Indeed, Mr. Cheney said he expected the rebuilding of New Orleans to "last a good long time," vowing to "bring it back better than ever, but that will take several years."

Campbell Robertson contributed reporting from Gulfport, Miss., for this article.

    'Going to Get It Done,' Cheney Vows on Gulf Tour, NYT, 9.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09cheney.html

 

 

 

 

 

Bush pledges help amid complaints

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 11:35 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao and Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 8 - President George W. Bush promised on Thursday to speed up relief to hundreds of thousands displaced by Hurricane Katrina, as some frustrated survivors complained there was still confusion over government aid and the official death toll rose.

Bush, whose administration has been on the defensive over its lagging response, vowed to "cut through the red tape" and get federal aid as fast as possible to survivors of the August 29 storm.

With his approval ratings at a new low, Bush pledged to be there for "the long haul."

The official death toll surpassed 300 in the two hardest hit states when Louisiana officials said they had confirmed 118 deaths, on top of 201 in neighboring Mississippi. Thousands more may still be missing.

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved $51.8 billion in new hurricane relief and Bush signed the measure into law. The government has used up $10.5 billion passed by Congress shortly after the storm hit.

Addressing the nation, Bush said special relief payments and government programs would be made as easy as possible. But refugees among the thousands housed at the Astrodome in Houston complained that the federal response was still hamstrung by bureaucracy that meant hours of waiting for no real help.

"Basically you spend all day going from line to line to get the assistance you need," said David Williams, who spent four days on his rooftop in New Orleans before being rescued. "Then you get only two to three hours sleep before you get on line again."

Some refugees will have to wait longer for the $2,000 payments the government has promised to every affected family.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said only evacuees at the Astrodome were being offered the money in the form of debit cards. Others have to wait for checks to be mailed to their temporary addresses or electronically deposited in bank accounts.

 

NEW ORLEANS HOLD-OUTS

In New Orleans, once home to 450,000 people, there were hints of rebellion as rescue teams hunted for perhaps 10,000 people who cannot or will not leave, despite an evacuation order and floodwaters poisoned by bacteria, gasoline, oil, chemicals and submerged bodies.

"I think our government officials are assuming that everyone in New Orleans are idiots," said Tom Richards, 50, who stayed behind in a solid house with electricity from a generator and supplies of food and water.

"My opinion is you should have the option to stay ... with the stipulation that if you decide to stay, you are on your own."

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass told reporters no one would be evicted until all rescues are completed, and even then only minimal force would be used.

"I cannot use my resources to force people out when I have people who want to voluntarily leave," he said. "We're going to make this city safe and strong again. We have to get people out before we can start the rebuilding process."

CNN reported that shrimp fishermen had found 14 bodies inside an abandoned hospital in the eastern side of the city and 30 corpses were found inside a nursing home.

Officials have 25,000 body bags for the gruesome clean-up operation. While some have speculated the toll could be in the thousands no one knows how many lives were lost.

Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso, who represents St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, parts of which are still under 8 feet of water, said: "I am thinking we are better off than we thought we'd be."

In the bohemian neighborhood of Bywater, which escaped relatively unscathed, troops stepped up the pressure on residents to abandon the city.

"Certain people are hiding out and are not going to leave. They've got pets, and they ain't leaving them behind," said Adrian Tate, a carpenter who had to leave his pit bull when he was ordered to evacuate.

 

ANIMAL RESCUES SEEN

Police gave permits to animal rescue groups to search houses for pets and there were more than 3,500 requests from people looking for lost animals, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the Coast Guard chief of staff named this week to take over the federal response in New Orleans, said authorities would comb the city block-by-block, knocking on doors to find stragglers.

About a million people were forced to abandon their homes along the Gulf Coast.

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.

Vice President Dick Cheney, touring the devastation in Gulfport, Miss., voiced confidence in top federal emergency and security officials.

"I think the progress we're making is significant," he said. "I think the performance in general at least in terms of the information I've received from locals is definitely very impressive."

A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans thought Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts, and just 28 percent believed he did all he could. The president's approval rating fell to 40 percent, down four points since July to the lowest point Pew has recorded.

In New Orleans the Army Corps of Engineers said about an eighth of the city's pumping capacity was back in service, draining fetid water from the below-sea-level city.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney and Lesley Wroughton in Baton Rouge, Adam Tanner in Houston, Caren Bohan in Gulfport and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    Bush pledges help amid complaints, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T033611Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina death toll still a question

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 10:33 PM ET
Reuters
By Jim Loney

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept 8 - Estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Katrina have run as high as 10,000 but the actual body count so far is much lower and officials who feared the worst now hope the dire predictions were wrong.

The recovery of Katrina's victims speeded up in the last two days. As of Thursday, Mississippi had recorded 201 deaths and Louisiana 118, while other affected states had much lower numbers.

Searchers are now going door-to-door in New Orleans neighborhoods where the water has fallen enough for a look inside flooded homes. In Mississippi teams have been recovering bodies since hours after the storm struck on Monday last week.

The results in both places have encouraged some officials to hope the body count may not reach the predicted heights.

"I am thinking we are better off than we thought we'd be," said Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso, who represents St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, parts of which still sit under 8 feet of water.

The authorities are ready in case the total sharply rises.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, taking the lead in the recovery, has brought 25,000 body bags to the Gulf region. A morgue in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, is capable of processing 140 corpses a day and officials have formed a plan to handle in excess of 5,000 bodies.

Usually when a hurricane strikes, local officials announce death tolls within days as searchers retrieve bodies from crushed buildings and crumpled cars.

New Orleans is different. The flood waters unleashed by Katrina's assault on its levees sit stagnant in low-lying areas, preventing rescue crews from searching thousands of houses that are up to their eaves in polluted water.

In the first week after the disaster, officials and politicians discussed the possible death toll reluctantly, often only after being pressed by journalists.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin offered up a figure as high as 10,000 under such questioning. Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter said his "guesses" started at 10,000, but made it clear he had no factual basis for saying that.

 

SLOW WASHINGTON RESPONSE

Advancing the notion of a catastrophic death toll may have helped get the attention of Washington, which has being widely criticized for a slow response.

First reports from the city, where bodies were seen floating in the water, seemed to support a horrifying toll.

Clusters of corpses have been found in some areas. In St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, at least 32 deaths were confirmed at a nursing home. But such finds have been few.

Hundreds of thousands fled the Gulf coast before the storm, spurred by "mandatory" evacuation orders, which in the United States are not enforced by police.

Rescuers plucked thousands more from streets, levees, roads and rooftops. At least 32,000 were rescued and another 70,000 were evacuated from New Orleans after the storm, according to official figures.

But some feared thousands were trapped in attics and would succumb to the water or the heat. But rescuers later found many damaged roofs where residents chopped through with axes, encouraging those hoping the toll will be lower than expected.

In Mississippi Gulf towns, there is little stench of death compared to devastated regions of Indonesia after the tsunami.

In the rural areas east of St. Bernard Parish, some bodies will never be found because alligators will have taken them away, locals said.

(Additional reporting by Michael Christie in New Orleans and Crispian Balmer in Mississippi)

    Katrina death toll still a question, R, 8.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T023413Z_01_SPI877714_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-DEATHS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush signs $51.8 bln storm relief bill

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 10:07 PM ET
Reuters
By Richard Cowan

 

WASHINGTON, Sept 8 - President George W. Bush signed legislation to provide $51.8 billion in additional funding for Hurricane Katrina relief on Thursday, shortly after the measure was approved by Congress.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 97-0 after receiving it from the House of Representatives, which also passed it overwhelmingly.

"The people affected by this storm have immediate needs that we must continue to meet without delay," Bush said in a statement. "More resources will be needed as we work to help people get back on their feet."

It was the second time in a week that Congress has rushed through emergency funding for the victims of the hurricane that hit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida at the end of August.

Congress has now approved $62.3 billion sought by Bush, who has warned that further requests will come. Some lawmakers have estimated a final price tag of $150 billion to $200 billion.

"If we were to fail to act, every relief that is going on right this very moment ... will be without money when the sun rises tomorrow," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said on the Senate floor.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, and three senior senators from both major political parties cautioned that a provision in the legislation could open the door to fraudulent spending of emergency aid.

The provision would allow federal workers with government-issued credit cards to buy up to $250,000 in goods or services in a single purchase, up from a $15,000 limit.

A government watchdog agency has found purchases of personal items like jewelry, stereo equipment and home supplies, charged to such credit cards in the past, the lawmakers said.

John Scofield, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislation would reduce delays in delivering aid and that federal auditors will review credit card purchases.

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose home state of Alabama suffered in the hurricane, also feared misuse of funds and called for the appointment of a hurricane czar to oversee spending. "We have got to be careful this does not become a feeding frenzy," he warned.

 

'FAILURES OF LEADERSHIP'

Democrats supported the emergency aid but some accused the House Republican leadership of rushing it and blocking debate on an amendment to revamp the widely criticized Federal Emergency Management Agency, in charge of relief.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, came to the defense of the White House. Referring to the evacuees sheltered and the food, water and equipment delivered, DeLay said: "We ought to be proud of that. But what are we doing in Washington? We're pointing our fingers."

The disaster will add to already large budget deficits this year and next. Those deficits also are being fueled by the war in Iraq that has cost about $300 billion since 2003.

FEMA will receive nearly all of the funds approved on Thursday -- $50 billion -- while the Defense Department will get $1.4 billion for its rescue efforts. The Army Corps of Engineers will get $400 million to dredge navigation channels, repair pump stations and levees in New Orleans and repair other projects in Gulf states.

    Bush signs $51.8 bln storm relief bill, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-09T020743Z_01_SPI900473_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-CONGRESS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush suffers in polls post-Katrina

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
5:42 PM ET
Reuters
By John Whitesides,
Political Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's image suffered in public opinion polls taken after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, with some finding growing doubts about his leadership and the country's direction.

After a week of criticism for a slow response to the devastation caused by Katrina, polls released on Thursday registered drops in Bush's approval ratings and in confidence in his leadership.

A Pew Research Center poll found 67 percent of Americans believed Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts, and just 28 percent believed he did all he could. His approval rating slipped to 40 percent, down four points since July to the lowest point Pew has recorded.

The Pew poll also found a shift in public priorities after Katrina caused a jump in gasoline prices last week, with a majority saying for the first time since the September 11, 2001, attacks that it was more important for Bush to focus on domestic policy than the war on terrorism.

"Americans are depressed, angry and very worried about the economic consequences of the disaster," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew poll.

 

A WEEK OF CRITICISM

The new polls indicated a week of criticism and political finger-pointing over who is to blame for the disastrous response to Katrina could have taken a toll on the White House.

A CBS poll taken September 6-7 found 38 percent approved of Bush's handling of the storm's aftermath, while 58 percent disapproved. That was a dramatic shift from immediately after the storm last week, when 54 percent approved and 12 percent disapproved.

The CBS poll also found confidence in Bush during a crisis had fallen and only 48 percent now view him as a strong leader -- the lowest number ever for Bush in the poll. A year ago 64 percent of voters saw Bush as a strong leader.

Bush's approval rating fell to 41 percent in a new Zogby poll, with only 36 percent giving him a passing grade on his handling of the response to the storm.

The Zogby poll also found broad pessimism among a majority of Americans after the storm, with 53 percent saying the country is headed in the wrong direction and 42 percent saying it is on the right track.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken on September 5-6 found 42 percent believed Bush did a "bad" or "terrible" job handling the storm and subsequent flooding, while 35 percent thought he performed "great" or "good."

A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken September 2 offered more mixed results, with 46 percent approving of Bush's performance and 47 percent disapproving.

There was plenty of blame to go around for the slow response to Katrina, with local and state governments also taking a hit.

The Gallup poll found 13 percent blamed Bush for the problems in New Orleans, while 18 percent blamed federal agencies, 25 percent blamed state and local officials and 38 percent said no one was to blame.

In the Pew poll, 58 percent thought the federal government had done only a fair or poor job after the storm, but 51 percent also thought state and local governments in Louisiana and Mississippi had done just a fair or poor job.

    Bush suffers in polls post-Katrina, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2005-09-08T214323Z_01_SPI878093_RTRIDST_0_POLITICS-POLLS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Journey out of New Orleans

not easy for die-hards

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
3:15 PM ET
Reuters
By Mark Egan

 

ALTON, Illinois (Reuters) - When die-hard New Orleans resident Terry White woke up on Wednesday he had no intention of leaving the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

By nightfall, he was one of 138 people sleeping in an Illinois mental hospital, evacuated by plane from a place most did not want to leave.

With an estimated 10,000 people still remaining in New Orleans, police have upped the pressure to get everyone out of the city, where foul flood waters and rotting corpses have made conditions unsanitary.

Many of the reluctant refugees are finally going, but their trip to safety is not an easy one.

They are shuffled from place to place, forced to wait at the airport and finally flown away to a destination not disclosed until they get off the plane.

White's departure began at 8 a.m. on Wednesday when he walked outside of his home in the impoverished 9th Ward to check on a friend and was greeted by a group of New Orleans police officers.

They told him that if he did not leave, they'd be back to kick down his door and take him by force, he said.

"If the cops hadn't told me I had to get out, I never would have left," White said. "I had everything I needed in my house, but what was I going to do? They had guns."

He and others from one of the city's poorest neighborhoods were trucked to the convention center, where there was a National Guard staging post for evacuees.

They arrived looking tired and filthy. Some brought much-loved pets. Most had suitcases and others just the clothes they wore. There were couples with children, the old and infirm. None knew their final destination.

"I've always wanted to go to California," one young black man mused as he waited to board a bus.

The bus took them through the ruined city to the airport, where Red Cross volunteers greeted people with toiletries and food and doctors treated those needing help. Soon the crowd massed at departure gates, still unaware where they were headed.

And despite their plight, they bantered.

"You gonna come back," one man hollered at a friend.

"Oh yeah, sure I will," his friend replied. "I just gotta go to Las Vegas first and marry me a rich one."

 

TIME TO REMEMBER

During the long wait, the men's restroom became an impromptu smoking lounge. They huddled and recalled the dead bodies they saw, spoke of people they rescued and acts of heroism, and of proudly of sticking it out despite all the hardship.

Joseph Berrio, 46, said he used music to keep away the armed looters who came to his street each night on a boat.

"I put my stereo on my porch and played 'Alice in Chains' really loud," he said, referring to the heavy metal rock band. "It scared the hell out of them. I heard them say to each other, 'Stay away from that crazy white boy."'

In the departure lounge, people spoke about how New Orleans' horrid devastation might have a silver lining. Maybe the city could be cleaned up and there would be fewer drugs, guns and gangs on the streets, people said. Maybe the rebuilding will bring high-paying jobs and maybe the criminal element will not come back.

Linda Johnson, 47, was among those mulling a fresh start. The transsexual drag queen and burlesque dancer said she lost all her sequined costumes and was broke, but insisted, "I'll be happy anywhere I go."

Mike Bailey, 45, clutched his only remaining possession -- a large mixed-breed dog called BoBo -- and said, "Most of these people were born and raised here and have never been out of New Orleans."

With just $140 to his name, Bailey is nervous about his future. "They say it could be February or March before we get back. I'll try to get a job and survive; it's all I can do."

And like many, he was also nervous of flying for the first time.

When they were finally boarded a chartered Boeing 727, they still had not been told their destination, which annoyed many.

One man shouted "You're treating us like criminals."

An hour and 20 minute flight took the group to Scott Air Force Base in Mascoutah, Illinois, where they were herded onto buses and finally told their destination was the mental hospital, now a shelter for the Katrina displaced, near the town of Alton. They were 700 miles from home.

"We're going to a funny farm," said Gary Mansky, 44. "They must have figured we're from New Orleans so we'd fit right in."

They were the first to arrive at the facility, which can house 250 people sleeping six to a room in cots.

After handing out clothes and toiletries, offering food and giving out room assignments, staff said assistance would be discussed in the morning. Many of the evacuees want to reunite with friends or family elsewhere, while some were considering staying here for as long as was possible.

But White, a house painter who likes his independence, was unimpressed.

"I can't live like this. This is like a prison," he said, smoking a cigarette shortly after arriving here at almost 2 a.m. "I do appreciate their generosity, but a man needs a place of his own. I've got to get back to New Orleans."

Upstairs in the cramped sleeping quarters, men chatted about what might await them when they eventually return to the city they love. Putting aside their despair, they joked.

"Did you clean out your fridge before you left," one man asked another.

"Had no time," was the response. "And it had meat in there."

"Oh, brother! When you go back, that fridge is going to be talking."

    Journey out of New Orleans not easy for die-hards, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T191554Z_01_MCC869290_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-JOURNEY-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans hunts for survivors,

Bush pledges help

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
3:19 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao
and Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 8 - The hunt for the helpless and the hiding went on across New Orleans on Thursday as President George W. Bush promised to streamline the government bureaucracy to speed relief to the hundreds of thousands displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"We have much more work to do," said Bush whose administration has been under attack ever since the August 29 storm for the scope and speed of government help.

He promised to make access to special relief payments and existing government programs as easy as possible. But not long before he spoke to the nation, refugees among the thousands housed at the Astrodome in Houston were complaining of long lines and cranky machinery that produced only hours of waiting with no real help.

In New Orleans, once home to 450,000 people, rescue teams hunted door to door for what may be as many as 10,000 people, some refusing to leave despite an evacuation order and pernicious flood waters, others perhaps still trapped.

CNN reported that shrimp fishermen had found 14 bodies inside an abandoned hospital in the eastern side of the city. Earlier 30 corpses were found inside a nursing home.

Officials have 25,000 body bags on hand for the gruesome clean-up operation, and while some have speculated the toll could reach into the thousands no one knows for sure how many lives were lost. Some say victims may have been washed out to sea or buried under sludge.

"We saw a lot of dead people, both in the water and in buildings," said South Carolina game warden Gregg Brown, whose team scoured flooded New Orleans neighborhoods by boat.

 

FLOATING CORPSES

Rescue teams tied floating corpses to trees or fences for future recovery, and a morgue set up outside the city stood ready to receive more than 5,000 bodies.

At least 30 bodies were found at the St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso said. He said as many as three dozen other residents were rescued from the facility.

In the bohemian neighborhood of Bywater, which escaped relatively unscathed, troops stepped up the pressure on residents to abandon the city.

"They came around last night and told us we had to get our asses out by 6 p.m. today," said Blaine Barefoot, a 41-year-old street musician who was getting ready to leave. "I'm not going to fight it."

Helicopters clattered overhead and National Guard troops peered into windows of homes in search of the sick or dying, the dead, and those resisting efforts to evacuate them.

"Certain people are hiding out and are not going to leave. They've got pets, and they ain't leaving them behind," said Adrian Tate, a carpenter with a pit bull dog, although he conceded he would now obey the orders to leave.

"I have no choice."

Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. Coast Guard chief of staff named this week to take over the federal response in New Orleans, said authorities would comb the city block-by-block, knocking on doors to find stragglers.

"We need everybody out so we can continue with the work of restoring this city," Allen said on the CBS "Early Show."

Katrina's survivors have been without fresh water and electricity in oppressive heat since Katrina roared in and levee breaks flooded most of New Orleans, one of the world's most famous cities and home to about 450,000 people.

About one million people were forced from their homes along the Gulf Coast.

So far, the official death tolls stand at 83 in Louisiana and 201 in Mississippi, but officials say they expect to find thousands of bodies in the attics of flooded homes and the rubble of destroyed towns and cities.

Congress was set to pass $51.8 billion in new hurricane relief on Thursday. The federal government has exhausted a $10.5 billion fund approved by Congress just a week ago.

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.

With the high death toll and a national recovery effort that may cost taxpayers $150 billion to $200 billion there was widespread criticism of the federal response to the disaster and new concerns in Congress over controlling the money headed toward the effort.

"It's just a lot of money and people are worried that it's done correctly," said Rep. Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

 

CHENEY IN REGION

A CBS News poll said 65 percent Americans thought Bush was too slow to respond to the disaster and 58 percent disapproved of his performance. Large majorities said federal, state and local officials all acted too slowly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, scorched by criticism of its performance, had planned to hand out $2,000 debit cards -- $100 million worth in total -- to thousands of survivors, but they too were being delayed. Bush promised to get them into people's hand as quickly as possible.

The White House dispatched a team of top officials to the disaster zone on Thursday, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to help speed the recovery efforts.

One success story came earlier this week when Army engineers filled wide breaches in the levees with rocks and sand, and started pumping water out of flooded districts.

As much as 60 percent of New Orleans remained under water but state officials said on Thursday that city area pumps are now pushing out about 60,000 gallons of water per second.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Tanner in Houston and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    New Orleans hunts for survivors, Bush pledges help, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T192010Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Long lines,

confusion over cash aid

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 2:31 PM ET
Reuters
By Adam Tanner

 

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Thousands of refugees lined up under the hot sun for payments from the American Red Cross on Thursday in a confused atmosphere that prompted officials to close off access to the Astrodome complex at one point.

For the evacuees whose lives were ruined by flood, their days are now spent waiting for housing, food stamps, school registration and cash to restart their lives. Frustration is growing.

"Basically you spend all day going from line to line to get the assistance you need," said David Williams, who said he spent four days on his rooftop in New Orleans before getting rescued. "Then you get only two to three hours sleep before you get on line again."

"I got here on line at 7 a.m. and I was probably the 3,000th person on line," he said.

Williams and many others were waiting outside a convention center across from the Astrodome stadium -- the single largest gathering U.S. point for Hurricane Katrina refugees over the past week -- to receive several hundred dollars of payments from the Red Cross.

The money came from private donations, and will be distributed at other sites across the region in coming days.

A spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Washington initially said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was making the payments, then said she did not know the amounts involved. A FEMA spokesman said that planned $2,000 U.S. government vouchers for refugees would not be distributed on Thursday as previously announced.

Officials overseeing the Astrodome complex sealed off the perimeter for part of the morning, offering little explanation.

"I don't understand what's going on, it's just a bunch of confusion right now," said Terrance Green, 24, a Red Cross volunteer helping process aid applications. "Everyone is saying different things."

 

FRUSTRATED AND TIRED

Carolyn Biggs, who held her six-month old great-grand daughter in his arms, said she started her morning at 4:45 a.m. on the housing line. "Now I've got to go all the way to the back of the line, I don't think it is fair," she said, referring to the Red Cross payment line.

"I'm tired, I'm very tired," she said, suggesting that all the services be coordinated into one line. "I am frustrated."

She was however one of relatively few to figure out that the U.S. government would pay for two weeks in a hotel, information unknown to thousands living under the same roof at the Astrodome and other Houston facilities.

Dorothy Bell, 41, a retired nurse from New Orleans, said she had done little but wait in recent days. For her efforts she said she had received $149 in food stamps, more than $900 in Social Security benefits and was hoping on Thursday to receive public housing.

"As long as I find a place to stay, I'm not worried about the money," she said.

Bell was lucky enough to be on a queue that extended inside where it was air conditioned. Outside, a steady sun beat down as the temperature rose into the mid 90s. Mounted police watched the line, and a helicopter occasionally hovered above, adding to the noise of thousands of agitated people.

But for most refugees, there was no choice but to wait and take whatever was being given. "If they gave me four dollars, I'd wait in line," said Williams.

    Long lines, confusion over cash aid, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T183210Z_01_MCC865866_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-EVACUEES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Pledges

to Expedite Aid to Gulf Region;

Day of Prayer Is Set

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times
By DAVID STOUT

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - President Bush said today that he would work with Congress to "cut through the red tape" and get federal aid as fast as possible to people whose lives had been disrupted by wind and flood along the Gulf Coast.

"The government is going to be with you for the long haul," Mr. Bush said in a brief speech at the White House as he tried to counter charges that he and his administration had reacted slowly and ineffectively to the crisis. The president said that Sept. 16, next Friday, would be designated a national day of prayer and remembrance.

Mr. Bush said that the $2,000 per family in aid that had already been announced would be sped up, and that workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross were working to get the money into the hands of those who needed it.

He said some 400,000 families had already registered with FEMA for federal help, and that 3,000 people were taking calls around the clock at the agency, with the number of operators to be increased "dramatically" very soon.

People who fled the affected areas and consequently might have little or no identification would be given "special evacuee status" to make them eligible for the full range of federal benefits - Medicaid, food stamps, school lunch programs and aid to needy families, to name a few - without the usual paperwork, Mr. Bush said.

The president said he and Congress would also see to it that the states that took in people fleeing the gulf region would be reimbursed for the extra burdens on their budgets. "You should not be penalized for showing compassion," Mr. Bush said.

"We have many difficult days ahead," Mr. Bush observed.

As Mr. Bush made his case, Congress was trying to rush through the $51.8 billion aid package requested by the White House. Lawmakers of both parties seemed in agreement that the federal government should spend heavily to help the disaster victims. But they were far apart on related issues.

Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the Senate minority leader, expressed disdain for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and said that Democrats were prepared to bypass the agency entirely.

"Is there anyone - anyone - who believes that we should continue to let the money go to FEMA and be distributed by them?" Mr. Reid asked.

Mr. Reid said again that the hurricane and flood disaster, and a faulty federal response, should be investigated by an independent commission like the one that dissected the Sept. 11 terror attacks, instead of by Congressional committee, as Republicans have proposed.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a Democrat, who appeared alongside Mr. Reid, said, "There will be a lot of time for blaming in the future, and everyone will be held accountable, including us and including the president himself."

    Bush Pledges to Expedite Aid to Gulf Region; Day of Prayer Is Set, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08cnd-bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

Senators press Bush

on hurricane relief czar

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
1:48 PM ET
Reuters
By Tabassum Zakaria

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Republican senators pressed U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday to appoint a top official to lead the long-term recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

A White House spokesman said Bush still was not satisfied with the relief effort and leading Democrats called for an independent investigation of the slow response, saying a planned congressional inquiry would amount to a whitewash that would protect the Bush administration.

Bush met with Republican congressional leaders at the White House, where Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania urged him to pick someone to lead the administration's much-criticized recovery effort in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

White House officials have not ruled out such an option, saying it is among several being discussed for confronting long-term problems in Katrina's aftermath.

Various names have been mentioned in Washington for the job, such as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Gen. Tommy Franks, former head of the U.S. Central Command.

"I believe that we do need a person on the ground for a long period of time, the six- to nine-month range, who would be the person able to make decisions and cut through red tape, and I think the president agrees with that," Hutchison told reporters after the meeting.

Santorum also said the recovery campaign needed a long-term leader but said no candidates were discussed at the meeting.

Asked whether the president agreed with creating the position, Santorum said: "That's up to him. He didn't say yes or no."

A day after Republican congressional leaders announced a joint House-Senate inquiry into government failures regarding the hurricane, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada took issue with the approach and said he still wanted an investigation by an independent commission like the one that looked into the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Reid said Democrats would not participate in the joint committee, which they said was set up to protect the administration.

"These are serious concerns about the Republican approach," Reid said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor. "Americans deserve answers independent of politics. That's why Democrats and Republicans preferred an independent commission for investigating 9/11 and we should be following that model now."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California also questioned the congressional committee, saying, "Despite all the talk of bipartisanship, they have just on their own, unilaterally, put forth a proposal that will result in a whitewash of what is going on there."

Amid the partisan wrangling over the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush still was not satisfied with the operation nearly a week after he first said the results were unacceptable.

"The president continues to be not satisfied about where things are right now," McClellan said. "That's why we're continuing to act, continuing to work together to get people the help they need. There's been important progress made in a number of areas but there are ongoing problems and challenges that we continue to work to address."

The White House said on Thursday Bush would announce a plan to ensure that evacuees from the Gulf Coast get delivery of food stamps and other benefits.

A CBS News poll reported that 58 percent of Americans disapproved of Bush's handling of the crisis and that only 32 percent expressed a lot of confidence in his ability to handle a crisis, compared with 66 percent approval in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Patricia Wilson)

    Senators press Bush on hurricane relief czar, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T174904Z_01_DIT864067_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-BUSH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Lawmakers fret costs

as hurricane aid set to pass

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
12:50 PM ET
Reuters
By Richard Cowan

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress was set to pass $51.8 billion in new hurricane relief on Thursday as lawmakers grew increasingly nervous about the staggering bill at the same time the Iraq war is being waged.

The federal government exhausted a $10.5 billion fund approved by Congress just a week ago, and lawmakers quickly began considering additional emergency funds for hard-hit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other Gulf Coast areas.

Lawmakers were overwhelmed by the latest estimates, which put the overall rescue and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina in the range of $150 billion to $200 billion. About $300 billion has been spent on the Iraq war since 2003.

With polls showing voters worried about how the war in Iraq is being handled and the White House facing criticism that disaster response was too little and too late, Republicans and Democrats in Congress attempted to gain some control over the billions being hurriedly approved.

"It's just a lot of money and people are worried that it's done correctly," said Rep. Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

LaHood told Reuters that conservatives pressed Bush administration officials for assurances of proper oversight of the funds that will be used to clean up a devastated New Orleans and rebuild highways, utilities and businesses.

As a result, the $51.8 billion bill would set aside $15 million for federal auditors to watch over the spending.

Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, had a broader goal of restructuring the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency that is overseeing the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Obey said he would offer an amendment to the emergency spending bill to restore FEMA's status as an independent, Cabinet-level agency and require that its director have substantial experience in disaster relief. In a post-September 11 shake-up, FEMA became part of the new Department of Homeland Security.

"The problem is the agency we are appropriating money to has demonstrated with great clarity that it is spectacularly dysfunctional," Obey said on the House floor.

But his amendment was expected to be blocked by the Republican leadership, which wants to pass the bill quickly, especially with Vice President Richard Cheney touring Mississippi on Thursday.

Conservative House Republicans presented their fiscal concerns to White House officials late Wednesday, in a session that several of the lawmakers described as "a tough meeting."

 

FEARS OF MORE COSTS TO COME

Rep. Randy Cunningham, a California Republican who also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, told Reuters after the meeting that conservatives fretted about the huge relief costs with "more storms (gathering off the southern coast), the Iraq war and health care" costs that are rapidly escalating for the federal government.

Cunningham said that none of those Republicans suggested scaling back costly tax-cut proposals they have advanced for the past few years. Instead, he said they urged the Bush administration to look at ways to save on Gulf Coast reconstruction by waiving rules requiring union laborers for upcoming federal contracts.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continued to question the efficiency of FEMA's relief efforts.

Cunningham complained that FEMA was passing out emergency telephone numbers to people with no telephone service and no electricity to recharge their mobile phones.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, said he had heard reports that recreational vehicle dealerships in his state were being told to transfer their gasoline-guzzling inventories to the federal government.

"I would hope that before we buy up all the Winnebagos in America and send them to the Gulf Coast (for temporary housing) that we would be thinking about the cost of that and ... whether that's the best way to proceed," Gregg said on the Senate floor.

    Lawmakers fret costs as hurricane aid set to pass, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T165045Z_01_MCC860559_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-CONGRESS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans pushing out survivors

in grim search

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 1:04 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao and Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept 8 - Rescue teams hunted door to door in New Orleans on Thursday, searching for the living trapped or hiding out in the ruined city, but finding 30 corpses in a nursing home, a grim reminder of the task ahead.

About 10,000 people are believed to be inside the flooded city, surrounded by a toxic soup of oil, chemicals, garbage, human waste and floating corpses since Hurricane Katrina wrecked the home of jazz 10 days ago.

Officials believe thousands were killed and they have 25,000 body bags on hand for the gruesome clean-up operation, but less than 100 corpses have been recovered so far in all of Louisiana and no one knows for sure how many people died.

"We saw a lot of dead people, both in the water and in buildings," said South Carolina game warden Gregg Brown, whose team scoured flooded New Orleans neighborhoods by boat.

Rescue teams tied floating corpses to trees or fences for future recovery, and a morgue set up outside the city stood ready to receive more than 5,000 bodies.

At least 30 bodies were found at the St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso said. He said as many as three dozen other residents were rescued from the facility.

Mayor Ray Nagin has issued a mandatory evacuation order, saying people face risk of death from the toxic flood waters and the city must be emptied until it is cleaned up.

In the bohemian neighborhood of Bywater, which escaped relatively unscathed, troops stepped up the pressure on residents to abandon the city.

"They came around last night and told us we had to get our asses out by 6 p.m. today," said Blaine Barefoot, a 41-year-old street musician who was getting ready to leave. "I'm not going to fight it."

 

PUSHING OUT SURVIVORS

Helicopters clattered overhead and National Guard troops peered into windows of homes in search of the sick or dying, the dead, and those resisting efforts to evacuate them.

"Certain people are hiding out and are not going to leave. They've got pets, and they ain't leaving them behind," said Adrian Tate, a carpenter with a pit bull dog, although he conceded he would now obey the orders to leave.

"I have no choice."

Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. Coast Guard chief of staff named this week to take over the federal response in New Orleans, said authorities would comb the city block-by-block, knocking on doors to find stragglers.

"We need everybody out so we can continue with the work of restoring this city," Allen said on the CBS "Early Show."

Katrina's survivors have been without fresh water and electricity in oppressive heat since Katrina roared in and levee breaks flooded most of New Orleans, one of the world's most famous cities and home to about 450,000 people.

About one million people were forced from their homes along the Gulf Coast.

So far, the official death tolls stand at 83 in Louisiana and 201 in Mississippi, but officials say they expect to find thousands of bodies in the attics of flooded homes and the rubble of destroyed towns and cities.

Congress was set to pass $51.8 billion in new hurricane relief on Thursday. The federal government has exhausted a $10.5 billion fund approved by Congress just a week ago.

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.

With the high death toll and a national recovery effort that may cost taxpayers $150 billion to $200 billion there was widespread criticism of the federal response to the disaster and new concerns in Congress over controlling the money headed toward the effort.

"It's just a lot of money and people are worried that it's done correctly," said Rep. Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican who serves on the House Appropriations Committee.

 

BUSH TOO SLOW

A CBS News poll said 65 percent Americans thought Bush was too slow to respond to the disaster and 58 percent disapproved of his performance. Large majorities said federal, state and local officials all acted too slowly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, scorched by criticism of its performance, had planned to hand out $2,000 debit cards -- $100 million worth in total -- to thousands of survivors, but they too were being delayed.

The White House dispatched a team of top officials to the disaster zone on Thursday, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to help speed the recovery efforts.

One success story came earlier this week when Army engineers filled wide breeches in the levees with rocks and sand, and started pumping water out of flooded districts.

As much as 60 percent of New Orleans remained under water but state officials said on Thursday that city area pumps are now pushing out about 60,000 gallons of water per second.

Criticism of the speed and scope of the government's response came from members of both political parties and the private sector.

The situation "amounts to a massive institutional failure," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of the Oxfam America affiliate of the international relief agency. Oxfam mounted the first domestic U.S. rescue in its 35-year history in Mississippi.

"Before Katrina, we reserved our emergency response for countries that lack the resources of the United States. If we've got this kind of failure at home, how can we expect poor countries to do better?" he asked.

There were signs of impatience from federal officials as well -- theirs was directed at news coverage of the disaster. FEMA has excluded journalists from recovery expeditions and asked them to not take pictures of the dead, drawing protests from press-freedom advocates.

Leaders of Bush's Republican party said there would be a joint congressional investigation into the government's hurricane response, to the disappointment of minority Democrats who said an independent commission should investigate. Bush has also said he would lead a probe.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Tanner in Houston and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    New Orleans pushing out survivors in grim search, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T170503Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina telethon draws stars;

can they speak out?

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 8:54 AM ET
Reuters
By Steve Gorman

 

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Recording stars Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Neil Young and the Dixie Chicks will headline a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims slated to air this week on six major U.S. networks and around the world, producers said on Wednesday.

But it was not clear whether they or any of the other celebrities booked for Friday's event, including comedian Chris Rock and movie star Jack Nicholson, will be permitted to freely express their opinions during the show or required to stick to the script.

The question arose after impromptu remarks last Friday by rapper Kanye West, who used his appearance on a similar NBC network broadcast to accuse President George W. Bush of racism in the government's relief effort.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West said, adding criticism of the media's portrayal of blacks.

Kanye's comments were carried on NBC's live feed to the East Coast and central time zones but were cut from the tape-delayed broadcast aired on the West Coast and mountain regions. NBC said West had deviated from his script and that "his opinions in no way represent the views of the network."

The General Electric Co.-owned broadcaster is one of the six major networks planning to simulcast a separate live, commercial-free special this Friday, titled "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast."

The hour-long event also will be carried by numerous U.S. cable channels and broadcast in more than 100 countries, organizers said. Proceeds will go to disaster relief efforts of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Although West was absent from the lineup of performers announced for the show, a spokeswoman for producer Joel Gallen told Reuters that West was slated to make a live appearance.

But she and two other spokesman for the show all said they did not know what, if any, steps producers would take to censor or curb political statements celebrity participants might make. One NBC spokesman said a decision about a possible time delay for the live broadcast had not been made.

A number of stars on the bill, including the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Chris Rock and Neil Young, are known for their outspoken views on political and social issues.

A spokeswoman for MTV, which is planning to air yet a third all-star telethon for hurricane relief, said the cable music channel "does not censor artists." She added West was slated to perform in a pre-taped segment for the MTV special.

    Katrina telethon draws stars; can they speak out?, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2005-09-08T125500Z_01_ROB806853_RTRIDST_0_USREPORT-TELETHON-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Cheney Arrives in Region

as New Orleans Seeks to Pull Residents

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times
By ALEX BERENSON
and SEWELL CHAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - Vice President Dick Cheney surveyed hurricane- damaged neighborhoods in the Gulf Coast region today, pledging that the federal government would help rebuild the devastated area.

Mr. Cheney landed in Gulfport, Miss., and is scheduled to tour Biloxi, Miss., Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans, where flood waters are growing increasingly fetid and thousands of people are still insisting on staying, despite a mandatory evacuation order issued by the mayor.

"The president asked me to come down to take a look at things, and to begin to focus on the longer term, in terms of making certain obviously that we're getting the search and rescue missions done and all those other immediate things," Mr. Cheney said after touring a neighborhood in Gulfport. "The progress we're making is significant."

Mr. Cheney's visit follows a visit earlier this week by President Bush, his second since the storm hit, following much criticism last week that the administration and federal agencies had been slow in responding to the disaster.

New Orleans police officers today are expected today continue to try to force residents to leave, including those living in dry and undamaged homes.

It was not clear how widespread the forced evacuations were. But the city's police superintendent said that while his department would concentrate first on removing those who wanted to leave, the hazards posed by fires, waterborne diseases and natural-gas leaks had left the city with no choice but to use force on those who resisted.

In at least one neighborhood, Bywater, a working-class area east of the French Quarter, police officers and federal agents on Wednesday night began to press hard for residents to evacuate. At two homes, police officers and emergency service workers refused to leave until the two men living there agreed to go with them, even though both men appeared healthy and said they had adequate supplies.

Until now, city and state officials have implored residents to leave, but no one has been forcibly removed. The announced change in policy - after an evacuation order by Mayor C. Ray Nagin on Tuesday - came even as the floodwater receded slightly and residents in some sections took small steps toward recovery, cleaning debris from their streets and boarding up abandoned houses.

Some said they would fight the evacuations, potentially producing ugly confrontations.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people remained inside New Orleans more than a week after Hurricane Katrina hit, many in neighborhoods that are on high ground near the Mississippi River.

But the number of dead still remained a looming and disturbing question.

In the first indication of how many deaths Louisiana alone might expect, Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for the State Department of Health and Hospitals, said on Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ordered 25,000 body bags. The official death toll remained at under 100.

In Washington, the House and Senate announced a joint investigation into the government's response to the crisis. "Americans deserve answers," said a statement by the two top-ranking Republicans, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader. "We must do all we can to learn from this tragedy, improve the system and protect all of our citizens."

President Bush made plans to send Congress a request for $51.8 billion for relief efforts, the second such request since the storm devastated the Gulf Coast. The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the money would include $50 billion for FEMA, $1.4 billion for the Department of Defense and $400 million for the Army Corps of Engineers. The request follows a $10.5 billion package that Mr. Bush signed on Friday and is intended to address the immediate needs of survivors.

The government continued its efforts to help evacuees. At the Astrodome in Houston, where an estimated 15,000 New Orleans evacuees found shelter over the weekend, the number had dwindled to only about 3,000 on Wednesday as people were rapidly placed in apartments, volunteers' homes and hotels that had been promised reimbursement by FEMA.

Michael D. Brown, the FEMA director, said his agency would begin issuing debit cards, worth at least $2,000 each, to allow hurricane victims to buy supplies for immediate needs. More than 319,000 people have already applied for federal disaster relief.

"The concept is to get them some cash in hand," Mr. Brown said, "which allows them, empowers them, to make their own decisions about what they need to have to restart their lives."

As New Orleans officials grappled with how to make residents leave, new government tests showed the danger of remaining.

In the first official confirmation of contaminants in the water covering the city, federal officials said on Wednesday that they had found levels of E. coli bacteria and lead 10 times higher than is considered safe. Those were the only substances identified as potential health threats in tests of water conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency at laboratories in Houston and Lafayette, La.

Officials emphasized that as testing continued more substances were likely to be found at harmful levels, especially from water taken near industrial sites.

"Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," the environmental agency's administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said.

A spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said state and local officials had reported three deaths in Mississippi and one in Texas from exposure to Vibrio vulnificus, a choleralike bacterium found in salt water, which poses special risks for people with chronic liver problems.

At a press conference this morning, officials in New Orleans cautioned people to decontaminate themselves as best as possible when entering homes after wading through the flood water.

With the overall death toll uncertain, Mr. Brown, the FEMA director, said in Baton Rouge that the formal house-to-house search for bodies had begun at midmorning. He said the temporary mortuary set up in St. Gabriel, La., was prepared to receive 500 to 1,000 bodies a day, with refrigeration trucks on site to hold the corpses.

"They will be processed as rapidly as possible," Mr. Brown said.

As it worked to remove the water inundating the city, the Corps of Engineers said that one additional pumping station, No. 6, at the head of the 17th Street Canal, had started up, and that about 10 percent of the city's total pumping capacity was in operation. But the corps added that it was dealing with a new problem: how to prevent corpses from being sucked to the grates at the pump inlets.

"We're expending every effort to try to ensure that we protect the integrity of remains as we get this water out of the city," said John S. Rickey, chief of public affairs for the corps. "We're taking this very personally. This is a very deep emotional aspect of our work down there."

As the forcible removal of New Orleans residents also threatened to become an emotional issue, the city's superintendent of police, P. Edwin Compass III, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning that such evacuations would not begin until the police had helped the thousands of people who wanted leave.

"Once all the voluntary evacuations have taken place," Mr. Compass said, "then we'll concentrate our efforts and our forces to mandatorily evacuating individuals."

But on Wednesday night, a city police officer and a dozen heavily armed immigration agents broke into a house in Bywater without knocking or announcing their presence, saying they were looking for a looter. The house was clean and neat and the only person inside, Anthony Paul, lived there, according to his state-issued identification.

Although Mr. Paul appeared to be in good health and had plenty of food and water, a psychologist with an emergency services team that was called to the house said she would not leave until Mr. Paul agreed to evacuate. The psychologist said that Mr. Paul was mentally stable, but that she wanted him to leave for his own safety. "If I'm leaving, you guys are leaving," said the psychologist, who identified herself only as Rain.

At one point Mr. Paul said, "You're going to have to kill me to get me out of this house." But after nearly an hour, he agreed to leave and packed a single backpack.

"I didn't want to leave right now," he said as he prepared to board an ambulance. "If I had a choice, yeah, I would have rode it out."

The psychologist said that she viewed the evacuation as voluntary and that Mr. Paul would eventually appreciate that he had made the right choice. "This is why I wake up in the morning," she said.

Among the authorities, though, some confusion lingered on Wednesday about how a widespread evacuation by force would work, and how much support it would get at the federal and state level. Mayor Nagin told the police and the military on Tuesday to remove all residents for their own safety, and on Wednesday, Mr. Compass said state laws gave the mayor the authority to declare martial law and order the evacuations.

"There's a martial law declaration in place that gives us legal authority for mandatory evacuations," Mr. Compass said. "We'll use the minimum amount of force necessary."

But because the New Orleans Police Department has only about 1,000 working officers, the city is largely in the hands of National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers.

State officials said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco could tell the Guard to carry out the forced removals, but they stopped short of a commitment to do so. In Washington, Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, deputy commander of the United States Northern Command, said regular troops "would not be used" in any forced evacuation.

The state disaster law does not supersede either the state or federal Constitutions, said Kenneth M. Murchison, a law professor at Louisiana State University. But even so, Mr. Nagin's decision could be a smart strategy that does not violate fundamental rights, Professor Murchison said.

While many New Orleans residents said they would not go gently, others appeared disheveled, weak and ready to evacuate.

Sitting under an umbrella in a filthy parking lot at the eastern edge of Bywater, Anthony Washington said on Wednesday morning that he worried he would not be able to reach his family if he left the city. But after a reporter offered him the chance to call his sister and explain where he was, he said he would leave. By midafternoon Mr. Washington had boarded a bus for the city's convention center, where evacuees were being taken.

"I don't have nothing here," he said.

Alex Berenson reported from New Orleans for this article, andSewell Chan reported from Baton Rouge, La. Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Vicksburg, Miss., and Christine Hauser and Timothy Williams contributed reporting from New York.

    Cheney Arrives in Region as New Orleans Seeks to Pull Residents, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08cnd-storm.html?hp&ex=1126238400&en=efe0a58b7fc8e12c&ei=5094&partner=homepage

 

 

 

 

 


Restarting Pumps

Required Pluck and Luck

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - Late Monday night, with a whoosh and a thunderous rumble, the first pumps kicked in at Pumping Station 6, New Orleans's largest, and began draining water out of this sunken city and into Lake Pontchartrain.

How engineers got them going is a story of adversity, ingenuity, perseverance and luck - and the eureka moment when one of them realized he had seen a functioning stoplight, a sign that an electrical grid was functioning and could be tapped for power to run the pumps.

A crucial player on the ground for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is driving the drainage effort, is Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Black. A wiry 44-year-old engineer who wears army camouflage fatigues and a regulation black beret over close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, he says his approach is not to tell other people how to do their jobs: local workers know the idiosyncrasies of their systems better than a visitor ever can.

Last Friday, with fetid water covering 80 percent of New Orleans, Mr. Black first met with representatives of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board; of Entergy, the local electric and gas company; and of Atmos Energy, which supplies gas to parts of the city. They discussed where portable generators might be placed - a tricky business, since they must be very close to large natural-gas lines.

But when members of the group took a helicopter tour on Saturday, they realized that the standard way of doing things would be very difficult; there simply was not enough dry land near gas lines to get power flowing in less than a week. In interviews here on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr. Black said members of the group came back from the flight with "droopy faces." All of their options were unappealing.

Since Hurricane Katrina cut its destructive swath through the South, the Corps of Engineers has come under attack for the levee breaches that sent water pouring into the city and for taking part in planning that left New Orleans vulnerable to powerful storms.

But the corps is also an essential part of repairing the damage that Hurricane Katrina wreaked - and there is no higher priority than getting the stations working again, because little else can move forward before the 30 billion gallons of water is drained from the city, said Col. Richard P. Wagenaar, the commander and district engineer for the New Orleans District of the corps.

"It's all about the water," he said.

Mr. Black is part of the Army's 249th Prime Power Battalion, which has its headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Va., and provides electric power for military operations and assists the Corps of Engineers in providing disaster relief. He has traveled the world for the battalion, including 16 months in Iraq after the American-led invasion.

New Orleans presents a different kind of challenge. Rebuilding the breached levees has been an enormous undertaking. Many pumps are still submerged and will need to be completely dried out before they can be restarted. Even pumps that stayed high and dry could not be started because there was no power to feed them.

After the first flight on Saturday dashed their hopes for a simple solution, things seemed bleak. Until somebody - Mr. Black does not recall who - remembered seeing the stoplight.

It was in Jefferson Parish, just west of New Orleans. What it meant was that a power substation called Southport might be putting out electricity. If so, the next question was whether power lines were still intact enough to link the power plant to the pumps. In a second flight, the engineers determined that they were. Last Saturday night, Shelby Grosz from Entergy ran a check on the substation and then called Mr. Black excitedly. "It's hot!" he said.

Over the next two days, workers climbed into electrical towers, some reachable only by boat, to make repairs. By Labor Day they had stitched together a direct link from the substation to Pumping Station 6, in effect turning part of the power grid into a giant extension cord.

Inside the pumping station, oily, rank water covered the floor a foot deep or more in many places. But the Rube Goldberg concatenation of power lines was complete by 10 p.m., and the lights came on.

The supervisor, Renauldo Robertson, left the control room and splashed across the floor to the first of the biggest pumps, which have 3,000-horsepower motors. Mr. Black followed. "There were wiggly things swimming in the water around our feet," he recalled with a laugh. Mr. Robertson started four pumps that night, though two developed problems and had to be shut down. Mr. Black returned to Baton Rouge, where the emergency operations center is based, and did not get to sleep until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

That afternoon, the helicopter took him back to New Orleans, to a part of Interstate 610 just at the point that it dipped eerily into the floodwaters, and where air boats would take him to the pumping station. But the boats were in use, and so an Entergy employee gave him a ride in the bed of his pickup truck, making his way through the deserted streets of Jefferson Parish.

Getting into the pumping station's control room, a lived-in place cooled with a fan and currently stocked with cots and the military packages of meals ready to eat, now involves walking on boards placed on a ladder laid flat between staircases down to a walkway that is inundated. "Don't fall in the water," Mr. Robertson warned, though the smell is warning enough. In the cavernous pump room, some of the machines date back more than 60 years, elegant pumps with a bold, futuristic beauty that recalls a time when industrial design and art were one.

Mr. Black and Mr. Robertson have developed a quick friendship. But while Mr. Black is a technophile and a tinkerer, Mr. Robertson blends technology with intuition. When a worker came in to tell him one of the motors was running hot, he ordered him to go back and test the temperature, literally by hand.

"Put your hand on it and count to 5," he said. "If you can hold it that long, it's fine."

Mr. Robertson, 50, had ridden out the storm in Pumping Station 1, which is downtown. "It was ugly," he said; the water poured in, and he and the rest of the crew had to climb 30 feet to the plant's narrow catwalks for safety, where they spent the first sleepless night in the heat and the dark, their arms hooked over the railings so they would not fall into the swirling waters.

"I've never been in a situation where I felt I wouldn't live to see tomorrow," he said.

They were not rescued until last Wednesday morning. With his wife relocated to be with a daughter, in Ville Platte, Mr. Robertson went back to Plant 6. "I really do miss them, but this is very important," he said. "We're going to keep fighting, pumping this water - I told my staff the biggest job in New Orleans is getting Station 6 pumping right now."

"You're kicking butt," Mr. Black told him.

"If we don't pump this water out, we lose this city," Mr. Robertson said.

The work is a series of stops and starts, steps forward and back. Mr. Robertson had started three of the plant's smaller pumps along with the two largest; he took one of the two largest pumps out of service to address a leak in the gearbox, which needed to be refilled with lubricant. It had to be cleaned and dried.

The motors to raise the sluice gates were not working, which meant that the water being pumped out had to escape from narrow openings around the gates. That, in turn, caused the motors to work harder than they should and overheat. On the spot, workers created a tool that would attach to a hand drill to turn the mechanism.

At best, only 6 of the 15 pumps at Station 6 will be working in the near term, because the older ones do not operate on the standard 60-hertz current that flows through the nation's power grid. They require their own generator, which will not be working for some time to come. But it is something. On the high side of the canal, the water churned furiously.

At night, the pumping station is a noisy, brilliantly lit outpost in the middle of a dark and silent ghost city. About 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Black left it and caught a ride to the New Orleans offices of the Corps of Engineers, where a late-night meeting was going on to discuss the issues still swirling around: the overall "dewatering" process; the need to get a diesel generator to a bridge across the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal so the bridge can be raised and allow equipment through on barges. Mr. Black, clearly exhausted, sat down to take part in the discussion.

The meeting broke up well after midnight. Even when the pumping begins in earnest, there is a staggering amount of work to be done in New Orleans alone.

Colonel Wagenaar discussed the fact that there is ugliness to come, as well. Debris is likely to crowd at the enormous intake tubes for the pumping plants, including human remains. Though gratings at the mouth of the intake pipes will prevent any bodies from being pulled into the works, that will inevitably add to the lingering horror of the hurricane that seems to never end.

    Restarting Pumps Required Pluck and Luck, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08pump.html?ei=5094&en=3a878c2b4057e4a3&hp=&ex=1126238400&adxnnl=1&partner=homepage&adxnnlx=1126201715-5uR1Tp5m5gi28TbBTFZTFg

 

 

 

 

 

Gas Supply

Falls to Lowest Point in 5 Years

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times
By VIKAS BAJAJ

 

The nation's gasoline inventories fell to their lowest levels in almost five years last week, the government said today, quantifying for the first time Hurricane Katrina's impact on the nation's energy supplies and production.

Americans bought and used about as much gasoline as they did a year earlier - 9.3 million barrels a day - in the week that ended last Friday, but gasoline inventories fell 2.2 percent from the previous week because of supply and production disruptions, the Energy Department reported. The figures did not include the impact of the Labor Day holiday weekend, indicating that gasoline stocks might have declined even further since then.

The hurricane dealt a severe blow to oil and gasoline production, refining and distribution in the Gulf of Mexico region and energy companies are still trying to recover significant lost capacity. For consumers, the disruptions meant high retail prices and, in some areas, spot shortages of gasoline.

This morning, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was selling for $3.03 on average nationwide, down from $3.04 on Wednesday, according to AAA. Average prices peaked at $3.06 on Monday and briefly spiked up to $4 to $5 in the last week in some cities like Atlanta.

Gasoline futures for October delivery fell 1.22 cents, to $2.01 a gallon, on the New York Mercantile Exchange around midday. Crude oil prices fell 47 cents, to $63.90 a barrel.

Up to 10 refineries in the Gulf Coast that account for 10 percent of the nation's capacity were shut down and two critical pipelines that bring gasoline and other fuels to the South, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were not operating at full capacity for much of last week. Six refineries are still shut down and about half of the gulf's oil and natural gas production also remains out of service.

All told, gasoline inventories fell to 190.1 million barrels as of Friday, down 8.6 percent from the same period a year earlier. Crude oil inventories of 315 million barrels were up 13.1 percent from a year earlier and down 2 percent from the previous week. Domestic oil production fell 3.5 percent from a year earlier, to 5.1 million barrels a day.

    Gas Supply Falls to Lowest Point in 5 Years, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/business/08cnd-oil.html

 

 

 

 

 

Rescuers search door to door

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
9:13 AM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Police and National Guard troops planned a door-to-door search on Thursday for thousands of people unable or unwilling to leave ruined New Orleans.

Boats continued to cruise the waters in search of the thousands feared dead from Hurricane Katrina and the White House dispatched a team of top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to tour the destruction zone.

But the immediate focus 10 days after Katrina hit land and changed the face of the U.S. Gulf Coast was evacuation.

Vice Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. Coast Guard chief of staff named this week to take over the federal response in New Orleans, said authorities would comb the city block-by-block, knocking on doors to find stragglers.

"We need everybody out so we can continue with the work of restoring this city," Allen said on the CBS "Early Show."

About one million people have been displaced by the August 29 storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

But officials have said perhaps 10,000 people remain in the flooded city surrounded by a toxic soup of garbage, human waste and floating corpses. The survivors have been without water and electricity in oppressive heat for more than a week since levee breaks flooded most of what had been home to 450,000 people.

Some are waiting to be rescued, others were staying in defiance of Mayor Ray Nagin's mandatory evacuation order.

New Orleans Police Chief Edwin Compass said authorities were prepared to force people to leave, but they have not yet finished voluntary evacuations. He told NBC's "Today Show" police in the city renowned for its street parties were well-rehearsed in dealing with unruly residents. "We're going to use those same methods we use to control Mardi Gras."

 

HIGH COST, POLITICAL TOLL

The misery was unrelenting. Pumps worked to gradually drain the bacteria and chemical-laced oily water away from the city, but far more were out of commission than working. As much as 60 percent of New Orleans remained under water.

Teams gathering bodies resorted to tying floating corpses to trees or fences for future recovery. A morgue set up outside the city stood ready to receive more than 5,000 bodies.

"It's my understanding FEMA has 25,000 body bags on hand," Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He said it was not to be considered an indicator of the final death toll but "It tells us we're prepared."

In neighboring Mississippi, ripped apart by the storm but spared the flooding that has plagued New Orleans, the death toll stood at around 200.

"The 200 or just over 200 we think is a credible or reliable figure," Mississippi Gov Haley Barbour told NBC's "Today."

With the high death toll and a national recovery effort that may cost taxpayers $150 billion there was widespread criticism of the federal response to the disaster and the government's seeming lack of preparation ahead of the storm.

A CBS News poll said 65 percent Americans thought Bush was too slow to respond to the disaster and 58 percent disapproved of his performance. Large majorities said federal, state and local officials all acted too slowly.

FEMA, scorched by criticism of its performance, was handing out $2,000 debit cards -- $100 million worth -- to thousands of survivors. At the Houston Astrodome where 16,000 New Orleans evacuees are being housed, long lines formed for the money.

Bush on Thursday asked Congress for $51.8 billion for the recovery, on top of $10.5 billion approved by Congress last week. Federal disaster spending hit about $2 billion per day over the weekend and could stay above $500 million for some time, his budget director said.

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.

Cheney was to visit hard-hit Mississippi as well as New Orleans. He has kept a low profile since the storm, but Bush asked him earlier this week to speed the recovery efforts.

In addition, Treasury Secretary John Snow, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart are to travel to Houston, Louisiana, and Alabama on Thursday and Friday. They were to see relief facilities and get first-hand accounts about damage and recovery efforts.

 

"INSTITUTIONAL FAILURE"

Criticism of the speed and scope of the government's response came from members of both political parties and the private sector.

The situation "amounts to a massive institutional failure," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of the Oxfam America affiliate of the international relief agency. Oxfam mounted the first domestic U.S. rescue in its 35-year history in Mississippi.

"Before Katrina, we reserved our emergency response for countries that lack the resources of the United States. If we've got this kind of failure at home, how can we expect poor countries to do better?" he asked.

One stricken New Orleans suburb was dotted with Canadian flags after a Canadian search-and-rescue team made it to the St. Bernard Parish five days before the U.S. military, Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso said. He said the outlying parish was largely ignored by the federal government.

"Why does it take them seven days to get the Army in?" Boasso asked.

There were signs of impatience from federal officials as well -- theirs was directed at news coverage of the disaster. FEMA has excluded journalists from recovery expeditions and asked them to not take pictures of the dead, drawing protests from press-freedom advocates.

Leaders of Bush's Republican party said there would be a joint congressional investigation into the government's hurricane response, to the disappointment of minority Democrats who said an independent commission should investigate. Bush has also said he would lead a probe.

(Additional reporting by Paul Simao in New Orleans, Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Entous, Adam Tanner in Houston and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    Rescuers search door to door, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T131416Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Jay-Z backs

Kanye West's telethon outburst

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 4:06 AM ET
Reuters
By Gail Mitchell

 

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Rap mogul Jay-Z is standing behind Kanye West, who went off-script to declare that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" during his appearance in last Friday's NBC telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims.

"I'm backing Kanye 100%," Jay-Z told Billboard by phone from London. "This is America. You should be able to say what you want to say. We have freedom of speech."

Jay-Z is also West's boss in his capacity as president/CEO of Def Jam Recordings. West's new album, "Late Registration," opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Wednesday.

During his Friday appearance, West added that America was set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible."

Jay-Z said he shared some of West's views. "It's really numbing," he said. "You can't believe it's happening in America. You wonder, what's going on? Why were people so slow to react? I don't understand it."

Although Jay-Z said he hasn't "spoken to anyone about doing a concert event" to benefit Katrina victims, he says he wants to speak with Sean "Diddy" Combs about starting a fund exclusively to help blacks in times of crisis. "Just in case anything like this happens in the future, we can do what the elder Bush and (former President Bill) Clinton are doing for our people specifically."

Reuters/Billboard

    Jay-Z backs Kanye West's telethon outburst, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=entertainmentNews&storyID=2005-09-08T080635Z_01_FOR829114_RTRIDST_0_ENTERTAINMENT-JAYZ-OUTBURST-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandy Huffaker

Cagle

8.9.2005

http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/huffaker.asp

Pianist : US president George W. Bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music of New Orleans

reminds of what's lost

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 12:45 AM ET
Reuters
By Chris Morris

 

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In the drowned city of New Orleans, Preservation Hall is still standing.

A story in Monday's Los Angeles Times said the fate of the historic jazz venue on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter was still unknown. But -- in the uncertainty of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and because of the dicey nature of communications out of the city -- information about New Orleans is being passed hand to hand, from one soul to the other.

Ben Jaffe -- whose family has operated Preservation Hall since 1961 as a temple devoted to the city's traditional jazz music -- survived Katrina's blow, according to Andy Hurwitz of Ropeadope Records in New York, who is working on a remix project with the Preservation Hall label.

"He decided that he and his family had been through worse," Hurwitz wrote in an e-mail last week, "so he rode out the actual storm, and both he and the hall made it relatively unscathed. But just yesterday (August 31), he felt the need to finally flee -- not because of the hurricane but because of the wild looting and lawlessness. He said he was scared, and he's the baddest cat I know."

Shots of Preservation Hall are among the first and last things one sees in Michael Murphy's new documentary "Make It Funky!" In an unsettling coincidence of timing, the Triumph Films release opens Friday at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood and the Quad Cinemas in Manhattan.

Murphy's film, like the all-star April 2004 concert that serves as its center, was meant to be a celebration of New Orleans' fount of musical genius. Most of the Crescent City's best-known and best-loved stars -- Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, the Neville Brothers, Snooks Eaglin -- are seen in live performance.

It's a jubilant movie, but, in Katrina's aftermath, it jarringly serves to show us all the more what's been lost in the destruction of New Orleans.

Murphy's walk through musical history makes the point that New Orleans music is very much a form of street music. The town's sound was born on the pavement -- in the singing of slaves on Congo Square, in the playing of funeral parade bands, in the rhythmic contests of Mardi Gras Indians.

And now one must wonder if that joyous noise will ever rise again out of those now-inundated streets.

For the time being, at least, the only way we can honor the city's tradition is to revisit it by dipping into the jazz of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet; the R&B of Fats Domino, Professor Longhair and Dave Bartholomew; the funk of the Meters and Dr. John.

Although closed indefinitely, the indomitable Preservation Hall has established a fund devoted to the relief of the city's musicians. (Consult http://www.preservationhall.com.) The fund will be sustained by the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with a famed Armstrong song title, "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

Now, sadly, we will likely all know what it means.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

    Music of New Orleans reminds of what's lost, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=entertainmentNews&storyID=2005-09-08T044549Z_01_HO817042_RTRIDST_0_ENTERTAINMENT-NEWORLEANS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

US seeks

more NATO help on Katrina

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005 8:27 AM ET
Reuters

 

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States asked NATO on Thursday for help in transporting European aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina amid concern that assistance is not getting through to the devastated region quickly enough.

U.S. ambassador Victoria Nuland asked allies at an emergency meeting to study "a stronger logistical and transport role" for the 26-nation defense alliance in shifting the mass of pledged European humanitarian aid, NATO and U.S. officials said.

"Especially heavy sea-lift may be used," said one NATO official, who requested anonymity. Some airlift assistance was also being examined.

NATO ambassadors were expected to take a decision on the request on Friday, and a mission could be mobilised within three to five days of an agreement on what was to be transported.

"There was broad support for this in the meeting today," a U.S. mission spokesman said.

NATO, together with the European Union, is already acting as a clearing house for European offers of help to Katrina victims ranging from medical supplies, tents, water purification and high-speed pumps to diapers, gloves and coats.

Some European officials have cited snags in getting the aid through. One Swedish plane laden with aid was kept waiting this week because it lacked approval to land in the United States.

NATO nations have a number of "roll-on roll-off" ships suitable for delivering bulky equipment.

The mission would be an early test of the alliance's much-heralded NATO Response Force (NRF), a rapid reaction fighting unit created to allow it deploy in trouble zones across the globe within a matter of days.

    US seeks more NATO help on Katrina, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T122751Z_01_FOR837734_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-NATO-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Living hard to find in New Orleans

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
8:32 AM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The living are no longer easy to find in the swampy ruins of New Orleans.

Rescue boats staffed by police, sheriff's deputies, wildlife officers and firefighters still fan out across parts of the devastated city where rooftops poke through rancid waters. But 10 days after Hurricane Katrina struck, the rescuers find very few people to save.

Those who wanted to get out had largely been found, said Gregg Brown, a game warden from South Carolina.

"Those that don't want us to find them, they hide," he added.

The authorities in New Orleans on Wednesday warned they would eventually force the few stragglers left in the deserted city to leave.

In the French Quarter, bruised by the hurricane but largely dry and intact, a small group of eccentrics, aging hippies, artists and renegades remained, dropping in to Johnny White's bar for a few beers before a police-enforced curfew at 7 p.m.

Police officers from the New York Police Department hung around in a couple of squad cars outside.

"I'm not leaving. What they going to do? Shoot me?" asked a local who asked not to be named.

The bar's acting manager, Marcia Ramsey, said French Quarter residents were negotiating with police to be allowed to stay, looking after the community and helping with the cleanup of their home city.

"If they make us leave, they make us leave. There's not much we can do," Ramsey shrugged. "I mean, we don't want to but it's their rules, not ours."

Out in flooded sections of town, stragglers and people hoping to be found are few and far between. So are the bodies of the thousands that city officials fear may have died.

Capt. Scott Powell of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources led a small fleet of 14 boats manned by game wardens and New Orleans police officers through parts of the city just south of Lake Pontchartrain on Wednesday.

 

FEW SIGNS OF LIFE

In the first days after arriving in New Orleans over the weekend, Powell's water rescue squad brought 12 to 15 people a day to safety, he said. They also found a lot of people who didn't want to come.

"We saw a lot of dead people, both in the water and in buildings," he added. In one retirement home, the South Carolina game wardens reached a closed door on the second floor that they believed had been used as a morgue for pensioners who had died. The stench was so strong they left the door closed, game wardens said.

"You could smell it. There wasn't anybody alive in that building," said Brown.

A few days later, as the rescuers cruised slowly through flooded streets, shouting "hello, hello," replies never came.

The only signs of life were a few squirrels jumping through tree branches that stuck out of the water, an odd abandoned dog on a rooftop and newly hatched tadpoles. Even the fish had died, floating on top of the murky mixture of water, oil, sewage and household chemicals that covered more than half the city.

Leaking natural gas bubbled to the surface in places.

Many homes had holes punched in their roofs where people had clawed their way out of their attics to safety when the waters first began to rise.

"I'd rather try," even if it meant finding nobody, a New Orleans police officer said.

    Living hard to find in New Orleans, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T123226Z_01_FOR835911_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-RESCUERS-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Hide and seek

in New Orleans storm effort

 

Thu Sep 8, 2005
6:01 AM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - National Guard troops prepared to hunt on Thursday for thousands of people still clinging to life in ruined New Orleans, as the White House sent more money and top officials to Hurricane Katrina's destruction zone.

The New Orleans stragglers were but a fraction of the million people displaced by the August 29 storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Their fate in what was once one of Americas's favorite party cities was playing out in the spotlight.

Officials have said perhaps 10,000 people remain in the flooded city surrounded by a toxic soup of garbage, human waste and floating corpses. The survivors have been without water and electricity in oppressive heat for more than a week since levee breaks flooded most of what had been home to 450,000 people.

Eddie Compass, the New Orleans police chief, said there were residents who wanted to leave and just waiting for help.

But some were staying in defiance of Mayor Ray Nagin's mandatory evacuation order. "Those that don't want us to find them, they hide," said Gregg Brown, a South Carolina game warden helping in the search.

Robert Johnson, 58, said he had no money and nowhere to go, and wanted to stay to protect his home. "If I'm gonna be miserable I'd better be miserable right here," he said.

The misery was unrelenting. Pumps worked to gradually drain the bacteria and chemical-laced oily water away from the city, but far more were out of commission than working. As much as 60 percent of New Orleans remained under water.

Teams trying to find the thousands feared killed in the storm and its aftermath resorted to tying floating corpses to trees or fences for future recovery. A morgue set up outside the city stood ready to receive more than 5,000 bodies.

 

HIGH COST, POLITICAL TOLL

With a national recovery effort that may cost taxpayers $150 billion there was widespread criticism of the U.S. government's response to the disaster and the government's seeming lack of preparation ahead of the long-predicted storm.

U.S. President George W. Bush asked Congress on Thursday for $51.8 billion for the recovery, on top of $10.5 billion approved by Congress last week. Federal disaster spending hit about $2 billion per day over the weekend and could stay above $500 million for some time, his budget director said.

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to one percentage point by the disaster.

Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Bush has asked to cut through any red tape slowing the recovery, was due on Thursday to visit hard-hit Mississippi as well as New Orleans.

In addition, Treasury Secretary John Snow, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart are to travel to Houston, Louisiana, and Alabama on Thursday and Friday. They were to see relief facilities and get first-hand accounts about damage and recovery efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), scorched by criticism of its performance, was handing out $2,000 debit cards -- $100 million worth -- to thousands of survivors. At the Houston Astrodome where 16,000 New Orleans evacuees are being housed, long lines formed for the money.

 

"INSTITUTIONAL FAILURE"

Criticism of the speed and scope of the government's response came from members of both political parties and the private sector.

The situation "amounts to a massive institutional failure," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of the Oxfam America affiliate of the international relief agency. Oxfam mounted the first domestic U.S. rescue in its 35-year history in Mississippi.

"Before Katrina, we reserved our emergency response for countries that lack the resources of the United States. If we've got this kind of failure at home, how can we expect poor countries to do better?" he asked.

A Canadian search-and-rescue team had made it to the flooded New Orleans suburb of St. Bernard Parish five days before the U.S. military, Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso said. "We've got Canadian flags flying everywhere," he said.

Bush's family also came in for criticism. A comment made earlier in the week by his mother, Barbara Bush, was slammed on Internet sites and newspaper pages.

Speaking of evacuees in the Astrodome, the former first lady told a reporter in Houston: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. This is working very well for them."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan described her comments as "a personal observation."

There were signs officials were growing impatient with news coverage of the disaster. FEMA has excluded journalists from recovery expeditions and asked them to not take pictures of the dead, drawing protests from press-freedom advocates.

NBC anchor Brian Williams wrote on the network's Web site that an out-of-town police officer at a New Orleans fire scene pointed her weapon at media members "armed only with notepads," and a National Guard sergeant interfered with attempts to film members of the unit.

Leaders of Bush's Republican party said there would be a joint congressional investigation into the government's hurricane response, to the disappointment of minority Democrats who said an independent commission should investigate. Bush has also said he would lead a probe.

Bush's response to the crisis was rated "bad" or "terrible" by 42 percent of Americans surveyed for a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll released on Wednesday, compared with 35 percent who said it was "good" or "great."

(Additional reporting by Paul Simao in New Orleans, Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Entous, Adam Tanner in Houston and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    Hide and seek in New Orleans storm effort, R, 8.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T100203Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Shelters for Pets

Fill With Furry Survivors

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By DEBORAH BLUMENTHAL

 

HOUSTON, Sept. 7 - Peter, a yellow cockatiel, came through the door of the Houston animal shelter from New Orleans perched on his owner's finger. With pets barred from the bus trip, Lola, a green parrot, made it hidden inside her owner's bra. And the Great Dane? Well, no one is quite sure about him.

The Houston S.P.C.A. has opened its doors to almost 900 animals in recent days, including cats, dogs, parrots, iguanas, a pig and, even temporarily, a pet chick named Lucy, all belonging to hurricane survivors from Louisiana who are in homes and shelters in Houston that do not allow pets.

"It's become our disaster by default," said Patricia E. Mercer, the president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals here.

In addition to untold numbers of pets killed, animals made homeless by the hurricane are wandering hungry and confused throughout the Gulf Coast.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said, "In New Orleans alone, we think there are 50,000 pets."

Jane Garrison, who is working with a Humane Society rescue team in New Orleans, said her best rescue was on Wednesday, when she heard a dog's cries and looked up to see a Labrador mix marooned on the second-story awning of a house that was completely crumbled.

"We went up by ladder and threw a leash around her neck," Ms. Garrison said. "She jumped down into my partner's arms and immediately started licking her."

The Houston S.P.C.A. sent a staff member along with six members of Florida's Broward County chapter to New Orleans to pick up homeless animals. "Hundreds of people, if not thousands around the country, are working to save animals," Ms. Mercer said. Louisiana State University has 300 animals, she said, and 500 are being housed in Gonzales, La.

Jacque Meyer, executive director of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society who is in Jackson, Miss., to help, said 30 dogs from the Gulfport, Miss., region whose owners were killed were rounded up on Tuesday.

Some groups, like the North Shore Animal League on Long Island, have helped by taking animals previously held in shelters in the hurricane areas to make room for more animals, Ms. Meyer said.

The effort to find animals can be slow and sometimes unpredictable, said Dino Vlachos, an animal rescuer from Atlanta who is in New Orleans.

"We just completed a rescue off the French Quarter where we were told there were 62 cats," Mr. Vlachos said Wednesday. "But when we got there we found 62 birds and two goats."

He estimates that they have picked up 200 dogs and 250 cats since Monday. "But we need help," he said. To join the effort, volunteers have to register with the Humane Society at 1-800-HUMANE (1-800-486-2631).

Mr. Pacelle said: "The clock is ticking. We've had 2,000 calls from people who have left their pets behind. We're too late for some, but we may be just in time for others."

Mr. Pacelle said the Humane Society was "not getting the help we need from local, state and the federal government."

"There are policemen and firemen out there who want to help," he said, "but the order on high is to help people, not pets. Three days from now, there will be massive die offs."

Initially, the society's efforts were directed at picking up animals at the Houston Astrodome, and 400 owned animals at the Houston shelter now, Ms. Mercer said, were picked up by volunteers who met rescue buses at the Astrodome, Reliant Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center. The center has taken in animals from evacuees who found the shelter on their own.

Patricia Simmons, 47, a nurse from New Orleans, was one of them. Ms. Simmons stood in the lobby of the shelter on Monday holding a leash without a dog attached to it. She and her roommate, Deneen Taylor, had just bid a bittersweet goodbye to their dogs, Tiffany, 11m a Rottweiler-Doberman mix, and Cocoa, 1, a chow, because there was no room for them at Ms. Taylor's family home in Houston.

Nettie Hock was also at the S.P.C.A. with her mother, also named Nettie Hock, and her brother, Raymond. The family had come to visit Tanya, their 3-year-old bright-eyed Pekingese who was soon to be given a foster home by Michael Stanley, a lawyer from Sugar Land; his wife, Terrice; and their three children. The Stanleys met the family while they were volunteering at the Astrodome and were struck by how traumatized the elderly Mrs. Hock was without her beloved dog.

"She was sitting there in suspended animation," Mr. Stanley whispered, shaking his head.

Ms. Mercer said the shelter was close to its capacity of 800 animals. Three off-site overflow centers are open, and the group is working with others around the country to find space.

Although none of the pets who have owners will be put up for adoption, the shelter hopes to find foster homes for the animals where they can be cared for until their owners are able to take them back.

In the meantime, accounts trickle in of how pets and their owners escaped the wrath of the storm. A woman who came to claim her chow told Ms. Mercer, "We swam out together, and she didn't give up on me, and I'm not giving up on her."

    Shelters for Pets Fill With Furry Survivors, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08pets.html

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Musicians

Ask if Their Scene Will Survive

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By BEN RATLIFF

 

New Orleans is a jazz town, but also a funk town, a brass-band town, a hip-hop town and a jam-band town. It has international jazz musicians and hip-hop superstars, but also a true, subsistence-level street culture. Much of its music is tied to geography and neighborhoods, and crowds.

All that was incontrovertibly true until a week ago Monday. Now the future for brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, to cite two examples, looks particularly bleak if their neighborhoods are destroyed by flooding, and bleaker still with the prospect of no new tourists coming to town soon to infuse their traditions with new money. Although the full extent of damage is still unknown, there is little doubt that it has been severe - to families, to instruments, to historical records, to clubs, to costumes. "Who knows if there exists a Mardi Gras Indian costume anymore in New Orleans?" wondered Don Marshall, director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation.

"A lot of the great musicians came right out of the Treme neighborhood and the Lower Ninth Ward," said the trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, temporarily speaking in the past tense, by phone from Houston yesterday. Mr. Ruffins, one of the most popular jazz musicians in New Orleans, made his name there partly through his regular Thursday-night gig over the last 12 years at Vaughan's, a bar in the Bywater neighborhood, where red beans and rice were served at midnight. Now Vaughn's may be destroyed, and so may his new house, which is not too far from the bar.

On Saturday evening Mr. Ruffins flew back to New Orleans from a gig in San Diego, having heard the first of the dire storm warnings. He stopped at a lumberyard to buy wood planks, boarded up 25 windows on his house, then went bar-hopping and joked with his friends that where they were standing might be under water the next day.

The next morning he fled to Baton Rouge with his family, and now he is in Houston, about to settle into apartments, along with more than 30 relatives. He is being offered plenty of work in Houston, and is already thinking ahead to what he calls "the new New Orleans."

"I think the city is going to wind up being a smaller area," he said. "They'll have to build some super levees.

"I think this will never happen again once they get finished," Mr. Ruffins added. "We're going to get those musicians back, the brass bands, the jazz funerals, everything."

Brass bands function through the year - not only through the annual Jazzfest, where many outsiders see them, and jazz funerals, but at the approximately 55 social aid and pleasure clubs, each of which holds a parade once a year. It is an intensely local culture, and has been thriving in recent years. Brass-band music, funky and hard-hitting, can easily be transformed from the neighborhood social to a club gig; brass bands like Rebirth, Dirty Dozen and the Soul Rebels have done well by touring as commercial entities. Members of Stooges Brass Band have ended up in Atlanta, and of Li'l Rascals in Houston; there could be a significant brass-band diaspora before musicians find a way to get home to New Orleans. (Rebirth's Web site, www.rebirthbrassband.com, has been keeping a count of brass-band musicians who have been heard from.)

The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is more fragile. Monk Boudreaux is chief of the Golden Eagles, one of the 40 or so secretive Mardi Gras tribes, who are known not just for their flamboyant feathered costumes but for their competitive parades through neighborhoods at Mardi Gras time. (Mardi Gras Indians are not American Indians but New Orleanians from the city's working-class black neighborhoods.) Mr. Boudreaux, now safe with his daughter in Mesquite, Tex., stayed put through the storm at his house in the Uptown neighborhood; when he left last week, he said, the water was waist-high. He chuckled when asked if the Mardi Gras Indian tradition could survive in exile. "I don't know of any other Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans," he said.

These days a city is often considered a jazz town to the extent that its resident musicians have international careers. The bulk of New Orleans jazz musicians have shown a knack for staying local. (Twenty or so in the last two decades, including several Marsalises, are obvious exceptions.)

But as everyone knows, jazz is crucial to New Orleans, and New Orleans was crucial in combining jazz's constituent parts, its Spanish, French, Caribbean and West African influences. The fact that so many musicians are related to one or another of the city's great music families - Lastie, Brunious, Neville, Jordan, Marsalis - still gives much of the music scene a built-in sense of nobility. "Whereas New York has a jazz industry," said Quint Davis, director of Jazzfest, "New Orleans has a jazz culture." (Speaking of Jazzfest, Mr. Davis was not ready to discuss whether there will be a festival next April. "First I'm dealing with the lives and subsistence of the people who produce it," he said.)

And most jazz in New Orleans has a directness about it. "Everyone isn't searching for the hottest, newest lick," said Maurice Brown, a young trumpeter from Chicago who had been rising through the ranks of the New Orleans jazz scene for the last four years before the storm took his house and car. "People are trying to stay true to the melody."

Gregory Davis, the trumpeter and vocalist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of the city's most successful groups, said the typical New Orleans musician was vulnerable because of how he lives and works. (Mr. Davis's house is in the Gentilly neighborhood; he spoke last week from his brother's home in Dallas.)

"A lot of these guys who are playing out there in the clubs are not home owners," he said. "They're going to be at the mercy of the owners of those properties. For some of them, playing in the clubs was the only means of earning any money. If those musicians come back and don't have an affordable home, that's a big blow."

Louis Edwards, a New Orleans novelist and an associate producer of the Jazz and Heritage Festival, said, "No other city is so equipped to deal with this." A French Quarter resident, Mr. Edwards was taking refuge last week at his mother's house in Lake Charles, La.

"Think of the jazz funeral," he said. "In New Orleans we respond to the concept of following tragedy with joy. That's a powerful philosophy to have as the underpinning of your culture."

In the meantime, Mr. Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, has a feeling his own Mardi Gras Indian costume is intact. He was careful to put it in a dry place before he left home. "I just need to get home and get that Indian suit from on top of that closet," he said.

    Jazz Musicians Ask if Their Scene Will Survive, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/arts/music/08jazz.html

 

 

 

 

 

Forced Evacuation

of a Battered New Orleans Begins

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times
By ALEX BERENSON
and SEWELL CHAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - With the waters inside this city growing increasingly fetid and thousands of people still holding out, New Orleans police officers began on Wednesday evening to force residents to leave, including those living in dry and undamaged homes.

It was not clear how widespread the forced evacuations were. But earlier in the day the city's police superintendent said that while his department would concentrate first on removing those who wanted to leave, the hazards posed by fires, waterborne diseases and natural-gas leaks had left the city with no choice but to use force on those who resisted.

In at least one neighborhood, Bywater, a working-class area east of the French Quarter, police officers and federal agents on Wednesday night began to press hard for residents to evacuate. At two homes, police officers and emergency service workers refused to leave until the two men living there agreed to go with them, even though both men appeared healthy and said they had adequate supplies.

Until now, city and state officials have implored residents to leave, but no one has been forcibly removed. The announced change in policy - after an evacuation order by Mayor C. Ray Nagin on Tuesday - came even as the floodwater receded slightly and residents in some sections took small steps toward recovery, cleaning debris from their streets and boarding up abandoned houses.

Some said they would fight the evacuations, potentially producing ugly confrontations.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people remained inside New Orleans more than a week after Hurricane Katrina hit, many in neighborhoods that are on high ground near the Mississippi River.

But the number of dead still remained a looming and disturbing question.

In the first indication of how many deaths Louisiana alone might expect, Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for the State Department of Health and Hospitals, said on Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ordered 25,000 body bags. The official death toll remained at under 100.

In Washington, the House and Senate announced a joint investigation into the government's response to the crisis. "Americans deserve answers," said a statement by the two top-ranking Republicans, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader. "We must do all we can to learn from this tragedy, improve the system and protect all of our citizens."

President Bush made plans to send Congress a request for $51.8 billion for relief efforts, the second such request since the storm devastated the Gulf Coast. The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the money would include $50 billion for FEMA, $1.4 billion for the Department of Defense and $400 million for the Army Corps of Engineers. The request follows a $10.5 billion package that Mr. Bush signed on Friday and is intended to address the immediate needs of survivors.

The government continued its efforts to help evacuees. At the Astrodome in Houston, where an estimated 15,000 New Orleans evacuees found shelter over the weekend, the number had dwindled to only about 3,000 on Wednesday as people were rapidly placed in apartments, volunteers' homes and hotels that had been promised reimbursement by FEMA.

Michael D. Brown, the FEMA director, said his agency would begin issuing debit cards, worth at least $2,000 each, to allow hurricane victims to buy supplies for immediate needs. More than 319,000 people have already applied for federal disaster relief.

"The concept is to get them some cash in hand," Mr. Brown said, "which allows them, empowers them, to make their own decisions about what they need to have to restart their lives."

As New Orleans officials grappled with how to make residents leave, new government tests showed the danger of remaining.

In the first official confirmation of contaminants in the water covering the city, federal officials said on Wednesday that they had found levels of E. coli bacteria and lead 10 times higher than is considered safe. Those were the only substances identified as potential health threats in tests of water conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency at laboratories in Houston and Lafayette, La.

Officials emphasized that as testing continued more substances were likely to be found at harmful levels, especially from water taken near industrial sites.

"Human contact with the floodwater should be avoided as much as possible," the environmental agency's administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said.

A spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said state and local officials had reported three deaths in Mississippi and one in Texas from exposure to vibrio vulnificus, a choleralike bacteria found in salt water, which poses special risks for people with chronic liver problems.

With the overall death toll uncertain, Mr. Brown, the FEMA director, said in Baton Rouge that the formal house-to-house search for bodies had begun at midmorning. He said the temporary mortuary set up in St. Gabriel, La., was prepared to receive 500 to 1,000 bodies a day, with refrigeration trucks on site to hold the corpses.

"They will be processed as rapidly as possible," Mr. Brown said.

As it worked to remove the water inundating the city, the Corps of Engineers said that one additional pumping station, No. 6, at the head of the 17th Street Canal, had started up, and that about 10 percent of the city's total pumping capacity was in operation. But the corps added that it was dealing with a new problem: how to prevent corpses from being sucked to the grates at the pump inlets.

"We're expending every effort to try to ensure that we protect the integrity of remains as we get this water out of the city," said John S. Rickey, chief of public affairs for the corps. "We're taking this very personally. This is a very deep emotional aspect of our work down there."

As the forcible removal of New Orleans residents also threatened to become an emotional issue, the city's superintendent of police, P. Edwin Compass III, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning that such evacuations would not begin until the police had helped the thousands of people who wanted leave.

"Once all the voluntary evacuations have taken place," Mr. Compass said, "then we'll concentrate our efforts and our forces to mandatorily evacuating individuals."

But on Wednesday night, a city police officer and a dozen heavily armed immigration agents broke into a house in Bywater without knocking or announcing their presence, saying they were looking for a looter. The house was clean and neat and the only person inside, Anthony Paul, lived there, according to his state-issued identification.

Although Mr. Paul appeared to be in good health and had plenty of food and water, a psychologist with an emergency services team that was called to the house said she would not leave until Mr. Paul agreed to evacuate. The psychologist said that Mr. Paul was mentally stable, but that she wanted him to leave for his own safety. "If I'm leaving, you guys are leaving," said the psychologist, who identified herself only as Rain.

At one point Mr. Paul said, "You're going to have to kill me to get me out of this house." But after nearly an hour, he agreed to leave and packed a single backpack.

"I didn't want to leave right now," he said as he prepared to board an ambulance. "If I had a choice, yeah, I would have rode it out."

The psychologist said that she viewed the evacuation as voluntary and that Mr. Paul would eventually appreciate that he had made the right choice. "This is why I wake up in the morning," she said.

Among the authorities, though, some confusion lingered on Wednesday about how a widespread evacuation by force would work, and how much support it would get at the federal and state level. Mayor Nagin told the police and the military on Tuesday to remove all residents for their own safety, and on Wednesday, Mr. Compass said state laws gave the mayor the authority to declare martial law and order the evacuations.

"There's a martial law declaration in place that gives us legal authority for mandatory evacuations," Mr. Compass said. "We'll use the minimum amount of force necessary."

But because the New Orleans Police Department has only about 1,000 working officers, the city is largely in the hands of National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers.

State officials said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco could tell the Guard to carry out the forced removals, but they stopped short of a commitment to do so. In Washington, Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, deputy commander of the United States Northern Command, said regular troops "would not be used" in any forced evacuation.

The state disaster law does not supersede either the state or federal Constitutions, said Kenneth M. Murchison, a law professor at Louisiana State University. But even so, Mr. Nagin's decision could be a smart strategy that does not violate fundamental rights, Professor Murchison said.

"What I suspect is that if they do forcible evacuations, the authorities will tell the residents that they must leave and that they will arrest them if they don't," Professor Murchison said. "I would suspect that once they are moved to a location outside of New Orleans, the authorities will release them. It would then be up to the district attorney someday to decide whether to prosecute them or not. But in the meantime, the authorities sure aren't going to let anyone back in."

Professor Murchison said that anyone even seeking to challenge the forcible evacuations on constitutional grounds would have to travel to Baton Rouge, where the federal judges from the Eastern District of Louisiana, based in New Orleans, have relocated.

While many New Orleans residents said they would not go gently, others appeared disheveled, weak and ready to evacuate.

Sitting under an umbrella in a filthy parking lot at the eastern edge of Bywater, Anthony Washington said on Wednesday morning that he worried he would not be able to reach his family if he left the city. But after a reporter offered him the chance to call his sister and explain where he was, he said he would leave. By midafternoon Mr. Washington had boarded a bus for the city's convention center, where evacuees were being taken.

"I don't have nothing here," he said.

Alex Berenson reported from New Orleans for this article,Sewell Chan from Baton Rouge, La., andMatthew L. Wald from Vicksburg, Miss.

    Forced Evacuation of a Battered New Orleans Begins, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08storm.html

 

 

 

 


Macabre Reminder:

The Corpse on Union Street

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By DAN BARRY

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.

Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005.

Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time.

Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.

Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.

Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.

The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. On Sunday, for example, several soldiers on Jefferson Highway had guns aimed at the heads of several prostrate men suspected of breaking into an electronics store.

A car pulled right up to this tense scene and the driver leaned out his window to ask a soldier a question: "Hey, how do you get to the interstate?"

Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here - not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here - is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.

Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue.

"We Shall Survive," it says, as though wishing past the battalions of bulldozers that will one day come to knock down water-corrupted neighborhoods and rearrange the Louisiana mud for the infrastructure of an altogether different New Orleans.

Here, then, the New Orleans of today, where open fire hydrants gush the last thing needed on these streets; where one of the many gag-inducing smells - that of rancid meat - is better than MapQuest in pinpointing the presence of a market; and where images of irony beg to be noticed.

The Mardi Gras beads imbedded in mud by a soldier's boot print. The "take-away" signs outside restaurants taken away. The corner kiosk shouting the Aug. 28 headline of New Orleans's Times-Picayune: "Katrina Takes Aim."

Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank. About the only ones commuting by bus are dull-eyed suspects shuffling two-by-two from the bus-and-train terminal, which is now a makeshift jail.

Maybe some of them had helped to kick in the portal to the Williams Super Market in the once-desirable Garden District. And who could blame them if all they wanted was food in those first desperate days? The interlopers took the water, beer, cigarettes and snack food. They did not take the wine or the New Orleans postcards.

On the other side of downtown across Canal Street in the French Quarter, the most raucous and most unreal of American avenues is now little more than an empty alley with balconies.

The absence of sweetly blown jazz, of someone cooing "ma chère," of men sporting convention nametags and emitting forced guffaws - the absence of us - assaults the senses more than any smell.

Past the famous Cafe du Monde, where a slight breeze twirls the overhead fans for no one, past the statue of Joan of Arc gleaming gold, a man emerges from nothing on Royal Street. He is asked, "Where's St. Bernard Avenue?"

"Where's the ice?" he asks in return, eyes narrowed in menace. "Where's the ice? St. Bernard's is that way, but where's the ice?"

In Bywater and the surrounding neighborhoods, the severely damaged streets bear the names of saints who could not protect them. Whatever nature spared, human nature stepped up to provide a kind of democracy in destruction.

At the Whitney National Bank on St. Claude Avenue, diamond-like bits of glass spill from the crushed door, offering a view of the complementary coffee table. A large woman named Phoebe Au - "Pronounced 'Awe,' " she says - materializes to report that men had smashed it in with a truck. She fades into the neighborhood's broken brick, and a thin woman named Toni Miller materializes to correct the record.

"They used sledgehammers," she said.

Farther down St. Claude Avenue, where tanks rumble past a smoldering building, the roads are cluttered with vandalized city buses. The city parked them on the riverbank for the hurricane, after which some hoods took them for fare-free joy rides through lawless streets, and then discarded them.

On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - "They beat me and threatened to kill me," he says - but there are benefits to this new world.

"You're able to see the stars," he says. "It's wonderful."

Today, law enforcement troops began lending muscle to Mayor C. Ray Nagin's vow to evacuate by force any residents too attached to their pieces of the toxic metropolis. They searched the streets for the likes of Strangebone, and that woman whose name sounds like Awe.

Meanwhile, back downtown, the shadows of another evening crept like spilled black water over someone's corpse.

    Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08orleans.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chart

Alarm Growing on Storm's Cost for Agriculture        NYT        8.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/business/08farm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alarm Growing

on Storm's Cost for Agriculture

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO
and JEFF BAILEY

 

CHICAGO, Sept. 7 - Two weeks from the beginning of harvest season, there is a mounting sense of alarm over a potential financial blow to American farming. Farmers in the breadbasket states rely on barges to carry their corn, soybeans and wheat down the Mississippi River, but cannot be certain that the Port of New Orleans, a crucial link to export markets that was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, will reopen anytime soon.

In the gulf states, the storm left farmers reeling from numerous other problems, including a lack of electricity to restore chicken and dairy plants to service, and a shortage of diesel fuel needed for trucks to save dying cattle stranded on the breached levees.

For all of them, it is a race against time.

Farmers in some states in the Midwest had already endured the worst drought in almost 20 years. The storm, moreover, flattened sugar cane and rice fields in the South. And farmers nationwide must pay more for fuel to bring the harvest in and transport crops, lowering the profit they will earn when they sell them. Now Hurricane Katrina is adding to the pain by threatening to curtail exports.

In all, the hurricane will cause an estimated $2 billion in damage to farmers nationwide, according to an early analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The estimate includes $1 billion in direct losses, as well as $500 million in higher fuel and energy prices.

Midwestern farmers are threatened by additional losses. Farmers are clearing out stored corn and soybeans to prepare for this year's harvest, which they normally begin exporting at the end of September. But the hurricane caused substantial damage to waterways and grain-handling facilities, and hundreds of barges have been backing up on the Mississippi River with no place to go.

The latest blow to the farm economy comes at a delicate time for the Bush administration, which has been pushing to trim farm subsidies to comply with mounting pressure from the World Trade Organization to level the playing field for producers in developing countries.

The post-Katrina troubles of American farmers could make it tougher for the administration to push through an overhaul of subsidies that is being sought by developing countries. That, in turn, could affect the administration's effort to win new export markets for American production. Some 27 percent of American farm receipts come from exports.

Higher transportation and logistical costs - including diesel fuel, rail costs and barge rates - are slicing prices producers get for a variety of commodities. Corn prices, for example, have dropped 15 to 20 cents a bushel, or about a 9 percent decrease, based on Wednesday's price of $2.17 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, said Jerry Gidel, an analyst at North America Risk Management Services in Chicago.

The farm sector's problems are in sharp contrast to its good fortune last year. Driven by record-large crops, high beef prices and generous farm subsidies, net farm income hit a record $82.5 billion in 2004. Now the hurricane will put disaster relief programs into play and depress commodity prices, leading to billions of dollars more in government payments to farmers.

Next week, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are expected to issue reports on how they plan to cut $3 billion in Agriculture Department programs from the federal budget.

Farm groups have been pushing for any trims to take place in the food stamps and conservation programs, while the Bush administration has proposed ending the cotton subsidy program, which the World Trade Organization has ruled illegal in parts after complaints from Brazil and other cotton producers.

But the devastation wrought by the storm - and the ensuing economic impact on farmers both near the gulf and several states away - could alter the debate in Washington and hamper crucial trade talks scheduled for a December meeting of the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong.

"Without question, this makes the reforms that a lot of the rest of the world would like to see happen here in the U.S. a lot more difficult," said Clayton Yeutter, a former secretary of agriculture and United States trade representative. "The general psychology of the event is clearly negative."

In recent weeks, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has been crisscrossing the nation talking to farmers. His message is the need to reduce farm subsidies both to open more export markets to American farmers and to comply with international free trade agreements. "There is a real conditioning going on here," said Keith Bolin, a corn and hog farmer and president of the American Corn Growers Association, who attended a session last week in Decatur, Ill., three days after the hurricane. "Get used to less, get used to less. That's the message."

After two failed efforts at trade negotiations in the so-called Doha round, another failure in Hong Kong could be devastating to developing countries, which are desperate to lift their economies through access to markets in Europe and the United States.

The World Trade Organization is working to remove $280 billion in subsidies among the world's richest countries. Of that, American taxpayers and consumers paid $47 billion to farmers last year, an amount equal to about 20 percent of farm receipts, according to the World Bank.

But Mr. Yeutter and others said the emotional and financial impact of the hurricane on farmers will be tough to ignore in Washington.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimated that Louisiana would lose two million tons, or 20 percent, of its sugar cane crop. That would reduce the total United States sugar harvest by 3.5 percent, according to the analysis.

In Franklinton, La., a milk-processing plant is struggling without power to dump 60,000 gallons of stored milk that has gone bad. At some nearby Louisiana dairy farms, farmers have continued to milk cows, but with nowhere to sell the milk, they have simply dumped it down the drain.

Some 25 million pounds of milk at plants in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi could be lost over the next month if the plants do not return to operation soon, said Michael Danna, a spokesman for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.

Louisiana sugar cane farmers are worried that they may have to delay delivering their crop to mills while they wait for fields to dry long enough to apply an agent that ripens sugar cane, increasing the sugar content and making the crop more salable.

The delay could put the farmers dangerously close to the onset of winter frost, Mr. Danna said.

In Covington, La., thousands of cows are stranded in two feet of brackish water on the levees near New Orleans. Mike Strain, a veterinarian and co-owner of the Strain Cattle Company, struggled Wednesday to find a plane to airlift hay into the area to give his remaining 400 head of cattle "enough strength and energy to get them out of there." Already, well more than half of the 1,100 animals in his herd have perished, costing his company $2 million in uninsured losses.

"The timetable for survival is diminishing rapidly," said Dr. Strain, who is also a state legislator. "The death loss of cattle in southeast Louisiana will be 80,000 to 100,000 head when it's all tallied. That's 50 to 70 percent of the herd here, and that's before disease sets in."

Dr. Strain's rescue efforts are being severely hampered is a lack of diesel fuel to move the cattle to a ranch 100 miles north. "There is no fuel in the service stations that have power. That's just unconscionable."

Government officials are hoping for the best. Mr. Johanns, the agriculture secretary, said Wednesday that he was encouraged by the progress so far in restoring the flow of commerce on the river. He said ships are moving again and the majority of grain elevators in the region are resuming operations, at 63 percent of capacity.

"We are assuring our international customers that we expect minimal disruptions," Mr. Johanns said in a statement. He said workers were focused on restoring power, ensuring adequate staffing and reinstalling navigational aids to allow safe passage of ships.

Given a nighttime curfew, little electric power and potentially hazardous and disease-ridden working conditions, the issue of who will operate the ports remains unclear, with some analysts saying the military or National Guard may have to step in.

A union representative expressed confidence Wednesday that such severe measures would not be needed. The International Longshoreman Association's more than 500 regular New Orleans dock workers - nearly all of them evacuated to other cities - could be ready to work there "immediately," said Benny Holland, vice president of the union. Additional workers are available, if needed, from regional ports, like Gulfport, Miss., that are not operating, he said.

Most nations that import large amounts of agricultural commodities shipped through New Orleans and other gulf ports have plenty of stockpiles to ride out any disruption in shipping, the Agriculture Department's chief economist, Keith Collins, said in an interview. "I don't think any of them are in any kind of jeopardy," he said.

China, the largest buyer of United States soybeans, for instance, is estimated to have 4.1 million tons on hand, equal to about 10 percent of its annual consumption. Japan, the biggest foreign buyer of American corn, has about 1.3 million tons in storage. "That's a typical number for them," Mr. Collins said.

Some of the slaughtered chicken in storage at ports in New Orleans and Gulfport was lost, but production, which totals about 8.8 billion broilers a year in the United States, is little affected.

    Alarm Growing on Storm's Cost for Agriculture, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/business/08farm.html

 

 

 

 

 

After the Storm, the Swindlers

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By TOM ZELLER Jr.

 

Even as millions of Americans rally to make donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Internet is brimming with swindles, come-ons and opportunistic pandering related to the relief effort in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. And the frauds are more varied and more numerous than in past disasters, according to law enforcement officials and online watchdog groups.

Florida's attorney general has already filed a fraud lawsuit against a man who started one of the earliest networks of Web sites - katrinahelp.com, katrinadonations.com and others - that stated they were collecting donations for victims of the storm.

In Missouri, a much wider constellation of Internet sites - with names like parishdonations.com and katrinafamilies.com - displayed pictures of the flood-ravaged South and drove traffic to a single site, InternetDonations.org, a nonprofit entity with apparent links to white separatist groups.

The registrant of those Web sites was sued by the state of Missouri yesterday for violating state fund-raising law and for "omitting the material fact that the ultimate company behind the defendants' Web sites supports white supremacy."

Late yesterday afternoon, the F.B.I. put the number of Web sites claiming to deal in Katrina information and relief - some legitimate, others not - at "2,300 and rising." Dozens of suspicious sites claiming links to legitimate charities are being investigated by state and federal authorities. Also under investigation are e-mail spam campaigns using the hurricane as a hook to lure victims to reveal credit card numbers to thieves, as well as phony hurricane news sites and e-mail "updates" that carry malicious code designed to hijack a victim's computer.

"The numbers are still going up," said Dan Larkin, the chief of the F.B.I.'s Internet Crime Complaint Center in West Virginia. Mr. Larkin said that the amount of suspicious, disaster-related Web activity is higher than the number of swindles seen online after last year's tsunami in Southeast Asia. "We've got a much higher volume of sites popping up," he said.

The earliest online frauds began to appear within hours of Katrina's passing. "It was so fast it was amazing," said Audri Lanford, co-director of ScamBusters.org, an Internet clearinghouse for information on various forms of online fraud. "The most interesting thing is the scope," she said. "We do get a very good feel for the quantity of scams that are out there, and there's no question that this is huge compared to the tsunami."

By the end of last week, Ms. Landford's group had logged dozens of Katrina-related scams and spam schemes. The frauds ranged from opportunistic marketing (one spam message offered updates on the post-hurricane situation, with a link that led to a site peddling Viagra) to messages purporting to be from victims, or families of victims.

"This letter is in request for any help that you can give," reads one crude message that was widely distributed online. "My brother and his family have lost everything they have and come to live with me while they looks for a new job."

Several antivirus software companies have warned of e-mail "hurricane news updates" that lure users to Web sites capable of infecting computers with a virus that allow hackers to gain control of their machines. And numerous scammers have seeded the Internet with e-mail "phishing" messages that purport to be from real relief agencies, taking recipients to what appear to be legitimate Web sites, where credit card information is collected from unwitting victims who think they are donating to hurricane relief.

On Sunday, the Internet security company Websense issued an alert regarding a phishing campaign that lured users to a Web site hosted in Brazil and was designed to look like a page operated by the Red Cross. Users who submitted their credit card numbers, expiration dates, and PIN numbers via the Web form were then redirected to the legitimate Red Cross Web site, making the ruse difficult to detect. The security company Sophos warned of a similar phishing campaign on Monday.

"They're tugging at people's heartstrings," said Tom Mazur, a spokesman for the United States Secret Service. Mr. Mazur said there were "a number of instances that we're looking into with this type of fraud, both domestically and overseas," but he would not provide specifics.

The lawsuit filed in Florida last Friday accused Robert E. Moneyhan, a 51-year-old resident of Yulee, Fla., of registering several Katrina-related domain names - including KatrinaHelp.com, KatrinaDonations.com, KatrinaRelief.com and KatrinaReliefFund.com - as early as Aug. 28, even before the hurricane had hit the Louisiana coast.

By Aug. 31, according to the Florida attorney general, Charles J. Crist Jr., Mr. Moneyhan's sites had begun asking visitors to "share YOUR good fortune with Hurricane Katrina's victims." A "Donate" button then took payments through a PayPal account that Mr. Moneyhan had set up.

Mr. Moneyhan did not respond to numerous phone calls and e-mail messages, but the Web site names in question are now owned by Project Care.com, a loose collection of Web sites that is using the Katrina sites as an information center for hurricane victims.

Kevin Caruso, the proprietor of Project Care.com, said that he had offered to buy the sites from Mr. Moneyhan on Sept. 2, but that Mr. Moneyhan, distressed over the lawsuit, simply donated them to Project Care without charge. Mr. Caruso also said that after several phone conversations, he believed that Mr. Moneyhan, was "trying to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors, but did not have the experience to proceed properly."

The lawsuit, however, states that Mr. Moneyhan had attempted to sell his collection of Katrina-related domain names on Sept. 1 "to the highest bidder." The suit seeks $10,000 in civil penalties and restitution for any consumers who may have donated to the Web sites while they were controlled by Mr. Moneyhan.

Jay Nixon, the Missouri attorney general, sued to shut down one of the more bizarre fundraising efforts yesterday. A state circuit court granted a temporary restraining order against Internet Donations Inc., the entity behind a dozen Web sites erected over the last several days purporting to collect donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Also named in the Missouri suit, which seeks monetary penalties from the defendants, is the apparent operator of the donation sites, Frank Weltner, a St. Louis resident and radio talk show personality who operates a Web site called JewWatch.com.

That site - which indexes Adolf Hitler's writings, transcripts of anti-Semitic radio broadcasts and other materials, according to the Anti-Defamation League - attracted headlines last year when it appeared at or near the top of Google search results for the query "Jew." It remains the No. 2 search result today.

Most of Mr. Weltner's Katrina-related Web sites - which include KatrinaFamilies.com, Katrina-Donations.com, and NewOrleansCharities.com - appear to have been registered using DomainsByProxy.com, a service that masks the identity of a domain name registrant. However, Mr. Weltner's name appeared on public documents obtained through the Web site of the Missouri Secretary of State yesterday. Those documents indicated that Mr. Weltner had incorporated Internet Donations as a nonprofit entity last Friday.

The various Web sites, which use similar imagery and slight variations on the same crude design, all point back to InternetDonations.org. There, visitors interested in donating to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or other relief organizations are told that "we can collect it for you in an easy one-stop location."

It is unclear whether any of the sites successfully drew funds from any donors, or if Mr. Weltner, who did not respond to e-mail messages and could not be reached by phone, had channeled any proceeds to the better-known charities named on his site. But the restraining order issued yesterday enjoins Mr. Weltner and Internet Donations Inc. from, among other things, charitable fundraising in Missouri, and "concealing, suppressing or omitting" the fact that donations collected were intended "for white victims only."

"It's the lowest of the low when someone solicits funds" this way, Mr. Nixon said in an interview prior to announcing the lawsuit. "We don't want one more penny from well-meaning donors going through this hater."

    After the Storm, the Swindlers, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/technology/08fraud.ready.html

 

 

 

 

 


Democrats Step Up Criticism

of White House Response

 

September 8, 2005
The New York Times

By ADAM NAGOURNEY
and CARL HULSE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - After 10 days of often uncertain responses to the Bush administration's management of Hurricane Katrina, Democratic leaders unleashed a burst of attacks on the White House on Wednesday, saying the wreckage in New Orleans raised doubts about the country's readiness to endure a terrorist attack and exposed ominous economic rifts that they said had worsened under five years of Republican rule.

From Democratic leaders on the floor of Congress, to a speech by the Democratic National Committee chairman at a meeting of the National Baptist Convention in Miami, to four morning television interviews by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats offered what was shaping up as the most concerted attack that they had mounted on the White House in the five years of the Bush presidency.

"Oblivious. In denial. Dangerous," Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California and the House minority leader, said of President Bush as she stood in front of a battery of uniformed police officers and firefighters in a Capitol Hill ceremony that had originally been scheduled to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Americans should now harbor no illusions about the government's ability to respond effectively to disasters," she said. "Our vulnerabilities were laid bare."

Former Senator John Edwards, a likely candidate for president in 2008 and the Democratic Party's vice-presidential nominee in 2004, argued that the breakdown in New Orleans illustrated the central theme of his national campaigns: the nation has been severed into two Americas.

"The truth is the people who suffer the most from Katrina are the very people who suffer the most every day," Mr. Edwards said in a speech in North Carolina on Wednesday, according to a transcript provided by his office.

And Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, said in an interview: "It's a summary of all that this administration is not in touch with and has faked and ducked and bobbed over the past four years. What you see here is a harvest of four years of complete avoidance of real problem solving and real governance in favor of spin and ideology."

The display of unity was striking for a party that has been adrift since Mr. Kerry's defeat, struggling to reach consensus on issues like the war in Iraq and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. The aggressiveness was evidence of what Republicans and Democrats said was the critical difference between the hurricane and the Sept. 11 attacks: Democrats appear able to question the administration's competence without opening themselves to attacks on their patriotism.

Not insignificantly, they have been emboldened by the fact that Republicans have also been critical of the White House over the past week, and by the perception that this normally politically astute and lethal administration has been weakened and seems at a loss as it struggles to manage two crises: the aftermath of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast and the political difficulties that it has created for Mr. Bush in Washington.

Their response may have allowed the Democrats to seize the issue that Republicans had hammered them with in the past two elections: national security. "Our government failed at one of the most basic functions it has - providing for the physical safety of our citizens," Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat who is considering a run for president in 2008, declared in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Democrats' aggressiveness is not without its risks. The White House has been seeking to minimize the criticisms of Mr. Bush by portraying them as partisan, and some prominent Democrats had earlier avoided going after Mr. Bush on this issue, aware of what the Republicans were trying to accomplish.

At a contentious press briefing on Wednesday, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, used the phrase "blame game" eight separate times as he tried to push back on criticism of the White House effort.

Representative J. Dennis Hastert, the House speaker, struck a similar theme, saying: "Some people are really very anxious to start pointing fingers and playing the blame game. I think we need to get our work done."

Mr. McClellan did not respond to e-mails seeking a response to the Democratic criticisms. But in a sign of the White House effort to move the dispute out of the Oval Office and try to cast the argument in partisan terms, the Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, issued a statement assailing Democrats like Ms. Pelosi for "pointing fingers in a shameless effort to tear us apart."

Mrs. Clinton, in back-to-back television interviews Wednesday morning, angrily dismissed those kinds of attacks as a diversion from legitimate attempts by critics to point up shortcomings.

"That's what they always do; I've been living with that kind of rhetoric for the last four and a half years," Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, said on the "Today" show. "It's time to end it. It's time to actually show this government can be competent."

The Democratic reaction took many forms, from urging campaign contributors to give money to hurricane victims, to proposing legislation to provide aid to stricken areas, as Mr. Kerry did, to criticizing the Bush administration for cuts it had made to the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as Mrs. Clinton did. In one less-noted gesture, Al Gore, the former vice president, chartered a private jet and flew doctors to storm-stricken areas.

The Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, said this could be a transitional moment for his party. "The Democratic Party needs a new direction," he said. "And I think it's become clear what the direction is: restore a moral purpose to America. Rebuild America's psyche."

"This is deeply disturbing to a lot of Americans, because it's more than thousands of people who get killed; it's about the destruction of the American community," Mr. Dean said. "The idea that somehow government didn't care until it had to for political reasons. It's appalling."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said: "The powerful winds of this storm have torn away that mask that has hidden from our debates the many Americans who are left out and left behind."

For all the turmoil, Republican House leaders said Wednesday that they were confident it would not translate into a shift in power - if only, they argued, because there are not enough truly competitive seats next year to provide an opportunity for Democrats.

"Democrats throw stuff at the wall almost every week looking for something to stick," said Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "This is something they have now chosen to politicize during a national disaster, versus let's get people taken care of and then move on to what we have learned from it."

    Democrats Step Up Criticism of White House Response, NYT, 8.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/national/nationalspecial/08democrats.html

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Bush

Calls Evacuees Better Off

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - As President Bush battled criticism over the response to Hurricane Katrina, his mother declared it a success for evacuees who "were underprivileged anyway," saying on Monday that many of the poor people she had seen while touring a Houston relocation site were faring better than before the storm hit.

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," Barbara Bush said in an interview on Monday with the radio program "Marketplace." "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."

Mrs. Bush toured the Astrodome complex with her husband, former President George Bush, as part of an administration campaign throughout the Gulf Coast region to counter criticism of the response to the storm. Former President Bush and former President Bill Clinton are helping raise money for the rebuilding effort.

White House officials did not respond on Tuesday to calls for comment on Mrs. Bush's remarks.

    Barbara Bush Calls Evacuees Better Off, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07barbara.html

 

 

 

 

 

The blame game

 

Sep 7th 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda

 

Most of those in need of food, water and medical help after Hurricane Katrina have now been reached, engineers have started to pump water out of New Orleans, and the authorities have begun forcibly evacuating residents who refuse to leave. Who is to blame for the botched relief effort: George Bush, local officials, or no one in particular?
EPA

 

What took you so long?

THE evacuation of New Orleans was finally nearing completion on Wednesday September 7th, more than a week after the breaching of the low-lying city’s levees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. National Guardsmen, regular troops and federal marshals—many of whom had been brought in late last week following criticism of the sluggish relief effort—had moved into the worst-affected districts and were making house-to-house searches for the remaining survivors. However, an estimated 5,000-10,000 residents were still refusing to leave. As a result, the authorities began on Tuesday to enforce a compulsory evacuation order. “We'll do everything it takes to make this city safe,” said Edwin Compass, New Orleans's police superintendent. “These people don't understand they're putting themselves in harm's way.”

With most of the survivors now taken care of, the focus is shifting to those who perished in the storm and subsequent flood. The official death toll in the three worst-hit states—Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama—is still in the low hundreds. But the final toll could be as high as 10,000. Many corpses have sunk in the water that still covers around three-fifths of New Orleans. On Monday, the US Army Corps of Engineers said it had plugged a big gap in the levees and started to pump water out of the city. But it could be two to three months before the task is completed, and up to a year before those who have left can return. The economic costs of this, and of the damage done to the region's oil and gas facilities, are still being counted (see article).

Perhaps 100,000 people either could not or would not leave New Orleans when warned to do so before Katrina struck. Tens of thousands ended up at either the city’s Superdome stadium or its convention centre for days, turning them into sinks of hot and smelly misery. By the weekend, these refugees had been bussed out. Some 20 states have offered to house and school refugees temporarily. But the strain is already starting to show in neighbouring states. In Texas, home to almost half of those who fled New Orleans, officials say they are struggling to cope and have asked that any further refugees be airlifted to other states. On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would fly evacuees at New Orleans's airport to five air bases around the country, where beds have become available because of soldiers going to Iraq.

If the world was saddened by the devastation wrought by Katrina, it was shocked by the breakdown of law and order that followed. Looters roamed the streets, stealing food and water in desperation but also computers, sporting equipment and guns in opportunism. Rapes and car-jackings were reported, and there were angry confrontations between roving thugs and the few shop- and homeowners who stayed. Some saw the social tension as having a racial element, since most of those left behind were poor and black.

Though New Orleans was flooded on Tuesday of last week, it wasn’t until Friday that the relief effort gained real momentum, with the arrival of thousands of national guardsmen. Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, gave warning that “they know how to shoot to kill”, and by the weekend they had restored order to most parts of the city. But they and other emergency personnel are under huge pressure, with many of them working round the clock; the New York Times quoted Mr Compass as saying that at least 200 of his 1,500 police officers had refused to do their job.

 

Let down, but by whom?

While Katrina was a powerful storm, the extent of the chaos and suffering in her wake has nonetheless been surprising. America has dealt with ferocious hurricanes before, and New Orleans’s vulnerabilities were well known. Thus many are starting to point fingers in relation to both the short-term response and long-term policy failures.

Ray Nagin, New Orleans’s mayor, showed increasing frustration throughout last week, especially with the federal government’s response and its press conferences: “They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying…Get off your asses and let’s do something.” An under-pressure President George Bush criticised the relief effort on Friday, calling it “not acceptable”, before flying to the region to see the damage. Later, he suggested that local officials had made some mistakes. This earned him the threat of a punch from one Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu.

Many of the immediate difficulties are understandable. As Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, pointed out, the disaster has in fact been a double one. The hurricane’s winds flattened homes on the Gulf of Mexico coast, and shortly thereafter the rains burst the levees, the latter creating a “dynamic” situation while authorities responded to the former.

Nevertheless, many Americans are blaming the man at the top. Mr Bush should have gone to the region sooner, his critics say. (He made a second trip on Monday.) Some Bush supporters worry that the botched relief effort could hurt the president at a time when his ratings are already low, thanks to the troubles of Iraq.

A Washington Post/ABC poll, conducted on Friday, found that the nation was split down the middle, with 46% saying Mr Bush had handled the crisis well and 47% saying he had done badly. By Tuesday, support for the president appeared to have slipped: in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 42% of respondents rated his response to the disaster as “bad” or “terrible”, while 35% said it was “good” or “great”. Only 35% described the response of state and local officials as bad or terrible, with slightly more, 37%, saying it was good or great. But when asked who was responsible for the problems in New Orleans after Katrina struck, fewer blamed Mr Bush (13%) than federal agencies (18%) or state and local officials (25%); 38% blamed no one.

In an effort to head off criticism, the president has said that he will lead an investigation into his administration's response to the disaster. The House of Representatives and the Senate will hold their own probes. Politicians on both sides are angry. On Tuesday Susan Collins, a Republican senator who will lead an investigation by the chamber's Homeland Security Committee, said: “If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible?”

Mr Bush's critics argue that some of his administration's longer-term policy decisions have made the response to the disaster more difficult. The war in Iraq, it has been noted, has depleted the number of available national guardsmen by a third or more in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama; many of those serving in Iraq are trained emergency personnel. Others allege that the war has squeezed the budget, causing a postponement last year of projects to improve the levees—though it is far from clear that these could have been completed in time to stop the flooding after Katrina.

Even if some failures can be attributed to the Bush administration, the most important reasons for Katrina’s deadliness may lie in decisions that predate the current president, from Jean Baptiste le Moyne de Bienville’s decision to found the city in its precarious location, in 1718, to the more recent “improvements” in the area’s maritime navigability that have damaged south-eastern Louisiana’s wetlands. For much of the 20th century the federal government tampered with the Mississippi, to help shipping and—ironically—prevent floods. In the process it destroyed large swathes of coastal marshland around New Orleans—something which suited property developers, but removed much of the city’s natural protection against flooding. Support may now grow for a multi-billion-dollar plan to restore the wetlands, though a similar project in Florida has proved difficult.

It is an uncomfortable fact that millions of Americans have made the decision to live in areas prone to this kind of disaster. Though Congress has authorised an immediate $10.5 billion relief package and Mr Bush has said he will seek another $40 billion for the first phase of rebuilding, Denny Hastert, the speaker of the House, has questioned whether huge amounts of money should be spent on reconstruction in a location as exposed as New Orleans (though he later backpedalled). But there remain important questions to be asked at both the local and national level about the failures that led to Katrina’s destruction and chaos. It has provided yet another reminder that decisions made without due regard for the consequences can prove painful indeed later on.

    The blame game, E, 7.9.2005, http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4366649

 

 

 

 

 

Storm survivors defy order to leave

 

Wed Sep 7, 2005
10:38 PM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie
and Mark Egan

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Thousands of Hurricane Katrina's victims in New Orleans clung to their ravaged lives on Wednesday, some refusing to leave despite threats of forcible evacuation, others simply trapped.

There are still thousands in the city "wanting to leave" and waiting for help, New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass told CNN. But others made it clear they planned to stay put despite an order to leave, the threat of disease and the lure of cash payments from the government.

The toxic cesspool that engulfed the city for days receded bit by bit as pumps labored to push water from broken levees out to sea in an effort that could take 80 days.

Police said the arson, looting and violence that hit New Orleans had subsided, but some 10,000 of the city's 450,000 residents failed to heed or could not respond to a mandatory evacuation order issued by Mayor Ray Nagin.

Robert Johnson, 58, held fast to his run-down clapboard house in a poor New Orleans neighborhood, saying he had neither the money to leave nor anywhere to go.

"If Mayor Nagin comes to try to take me out I will f... him up," he said. "If I'm gonna be miserable I'd better be miserable right here."

Minimum force -- but enough to do the job -- will be used to flush out those remaining, the police chief said earlier.

There were grim reminders everywhere of the deadly storm that savaged the Gulf Coast 10 days ago.

In New Orleans, rescue teams tied bodies to trees or fences and noted the location for later recovery. They are part of the still uncounted carnage from the August 29 storm and the death toll could total thousands in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Federal health officials reported three people in the region had died from bacterial infections and tests confirmed the floodwater in New Orleans was a witch's brew of sewage-borne bacteria.

 

DEBIT CARDS FOR VICTIMS

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, scorched by criticism that it failed to act fast and fully when the storm hit, was handing out $2,000 debit cards to thousands of survivors. At the Houston Astrodome where 16,000 New Orleans evacuees are being housed, long lines formed for the money.

Hundreds of thousands of coastal residents have been displaced in one of the largest disruptions of its kind America has seen. Of the one million believed displaced, 235,000 were reported living in shelters but thousands more had relocated or found temporary housing from one end of the country to the other.

Criticism and blame mounted over the federal government's response efforts.

It "amounts to a massive institutional failure," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, U.S. affiliate of the international relief agency that said it had been forced to mount in Mississippi the first domestic rescue effort in its 35-year history.

"Before Katrina, we reserved our emergency response for countries that lack the resources of the United States. If we've got this kind of failure at home, how can we expect poor countries to do better?" he asked.

Nor was President George W. Bush's family immune. A comment made earlier in the week by his mother, Barbara Bush, prompted jibes on Internet Web sites and a foot-in-mouth criticism from one newspaper columnist.

Speaking of evacuees in the Astrodome, the former first lady told a reporter in Houston: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. This is working very well for them."

 

ECONOMIC BLOW FEARED

The Congressional Budget Office said 400,000 jobs could be lost and the nation's economic growth slashed by up to 1 percentage point by the disaster. Insurance companies put their losses at $14 billion to as much as $35 billion.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the cost of recovery and relief could be more than $150 billion, while the Louisiana Homeland Security department estimated the storm's cost would exceed $100 billion.

But the long-term impact on a city world famous for its carefree ways and jazz was almost impossible to calculate.

Above streets that until 10 days ago hosted wild street parties, the skies were thick with sleek and menacing Black Hawks, twin-rotor Chinooks, and orange-colored Coast Guard choppers.

Slow-moving military transport planes brought in supplies while helicopters ferried survivors to waiting ambulances.

"The sounds of New Orleans were jazz, people laughing, people eating a good meal," Nagin said. "And now the sounds of New Orleans are helicopters and army vehicles. This is almost surreal."

The White House is preparing a new emergency budget request likely to total $40 billion to $50 billion for the recovery, in addition to $10.5 billion approved by Congress last week. Some in the U.S. Congress estimate that federal spending will ultimately total upward of $150 billion.

Early estimates place the rebuilding cost for roads and bridges in Louisiana and Mississippi at nearly $2.5 billion, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said.

Leaders of Bush's Republican party said there would be a joint Congressional investigation into the government's hurricane response, to the disappointment of minority Democrats who said probe should be turned over to an outside independent commission.

Bush has said he would lead an investigation into the emergency operation, but he resisted demands for an immediate inquiry.

The chief executive's response to the crisis was rated "bad" or "terrible" by 42 percent of Americans surveyed for a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll released on Wednesday, compared with 35 percent who said it was "good" or "great."

 

(Additional reporting by Paul Simao in New Orleans, Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Entous, Adam Tanner in Houston and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    Storm survivors defy order to leave, R, 7.9.2005,
    http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T023829Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Katrina telethon

draws stars, questions

 

Wed Sep 7, 2005
10:29 PM ET
Reuters
By Steve Gorman

 

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Recording stars Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Neil Young and the Dixie Chicks will headline a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims slated to air this week on six major U.S. networks and around the world, producers said on Wednesday.

But it was not clear whether they or any of the other celebrities booked for Friday's event, including comedian Chris Rock and movie star Jack Nicholson, will be permitted to freely express their opinions during the show or required to stick to the script.

The question arose after impromptu remarks last Friday by rapper Kanye West, who used his appearance on a similar NBC network broadcast to accuse President George W. Bush of racism in the government's relief effort.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West said, adding criticism of the media's portrayal of blacks.

Kanye's comments were carried on NBC's live feed to the East Coast and central time zones but were cut from the tape-delayed broadcast aired on the West Coast and mountain regions. NBC said West had deviated from his script and that "his opinions in no way represent the views of the network."

The General Electric Co.-owned broadcaster is one of the six major networks planning to simulcast a separate live, commercial-free special this Friday, titled "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast."

The hour-long event also will be carried by numerous U.S. cable channels and broadcast in more than 100 countries, organizers said. Proceeds will go to disaster relief efforts of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Although West was absent from the lineup of performers announced for the show, a spokeswoman for producer Joel Gallen told Reuters that West was slated to make a live appearance.

But she and two other spokesman for the show all said they did not know what, if any, steps producers would take to censor or curb political statements celebrity participants might make. One NBC spokesman said a decision about a possible time delay for the live broadcast had not been made.

A number of stars on the bill, including the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Chris Rock and Neil Young, are known for their outspoken views on political and social issues.

A spokeswoman for MTV, which is planning to air yet a third all-star telethon for hurricane relief, said the cable music channel "does not censor artists." She added West was slated to perform in a pre-taped segment for the MTV special.

    Katrina telethon draws stars, questions, R, 7.8.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=entertainmentNews&storyID=2005-09-08T023018Z_01_ROB806853_RTRIDST_0_ENTERTAINMENT-TELETHON-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Infections kill 3 after Katrina;

others at risk

 

Wed Sep 7, 2005
11:52 PM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox,
Health and Science Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three people have died from bacterial infections in Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina, and tests confirm that the water flooding New Orleans is a stew of sewage-borne bacteria, federal officials said on Wednesday.

A fourth person in the Gulf region is suspected to be infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a common marine bacteria, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters, citing reports from state health officials in Mississippi and Texas.

"This does not represent an outbreak," Gerberding told a news conference. "It does not spread from person to person."

"People who are compromised in immunity can sometimes develop very severe infections from these bacteria. We see cases of this from time to time along the coast," she added.

Two of those who died were in Mississippi and one was an evacuee to Texas from Louisiana, health officials said.

And tests of the waters flooding New Orleans show it is, as expected, loaded with raw sewage.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said all the tests of waters in flooded residential areas of New Orleans exceeded by at least 10 times the safe levels of E. coli and other so-called coliform bacteria, found in the human gut and used as an indicator of sewage contamination. They also have high levels of lead.

"Human contact with the floodwaters should be avoided as much as possible," Johnson told the news conference. "This may seem obvious ... but no one should drink the floodwaters, especially children."

Gerberding said the message was clear.

"For evacuees who haven't left the city yet, you must do so," he said. "This water is not going away any time soon."

 

STOMACH TROUBLE

Rescuers are scrubbing down evacuees with soap and water at the first possible opportunity, and Gerberding said anyone who comes into contact with the water should also wash.

But the danger of infection also continues in the crowded shelters where many evacuees are staying for the foreseeable future.

"Right now in the shelters where most of the people are located we have seen sporadic reports of gastrointestinal illness," Gerberding said. The conditions are specially ripe, she said, for norovirus, a type of virus that includes the Norwalk virus that occasionally causes outbreaks on cruise ships.

"Norovirus is not generally life-threatening," said Gerberding. But stressed and fragile evacuees will be especially vulnerable, she said.

In Houston, David Persse, who oversees medical issues for Houston, said the city that has accommodated more displaced people than any other has not seen any evidence of disease from infected flood waters.

Yet with thousands living in huge shelters such as the Astrodome, a former baseball stadium, risk of disease spreading remained high, he said.

"You are never over the hump as long as they are living in a very crowded living setting," he said in an interview. "As long as we continue to have that, we are going to continue to be at risk."

Respiratory illness could be another problem. The CDC's Gerberding said as soon as this season's influenza vaccine becomes available, they will be encouraging refugees to be vaccinated quickly.

Another concern is the mental health of refugees, National Institute of Mental Health Director Dr. Thomas Insel said. Simple measures can ensure that the immense stress of losing homes, livelihoods and loved ones does not turn into something more serious, he said.

"For the vast, vast majority of people the word is resilience here. Most people will recover completely."

(Additional reporting by Adam Tanner in Houston)

    Infections kill 3 after Katrina; others at risk, R, 7.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-08T035234Z_01_SPI774989_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-HEALTH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats Assail White House

on Katrina Effort

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

WASHINGTON -- Congress' top two Democrats furiously criticized the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, with Sen. Harry Reid demanding to know whether President Bush's Texas vacation impeded relief efforts and Rep. Nancy Pelosi assailing the chief executive as "oblivious, in denial."

With much of New Orleans still under water, the White House announced that Bush is asking lawmakers to approve another $51.8 billion to cover the costs of federal recovery efforts. Congressional officials said they expected to approve the next installment as early as Thursday, to keep the money flowing without interruption.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the new request, which is in addition to $10.5 billion already approved and was being sent to Capitol Hill later Wednesday, would not be the last.

"We are sparing no effort to help those that have been affected by Katrina and are in need of help," he said. "There will be more that will be needed."

Included in the request are $1.4 billion for the military and $400 million for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to plug breached levees that submerged most of New Orleans and to drain the city of the rank floodwaters, McClellan said. The rest would go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press learned that the government planned to distribute debit cards worth $2,000 to victims of the hurricane.

"They are going to start issuing debit cards, $2,000 per adult, today at the Astrodome," said Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The cards could be used to buy food, transportation, gas and other essentials that displaced people need, according to a state official who was on the call and requested anonymity because the program had not been publicly announced.

GOP congressional leaders met privately to plan their next step, possibly including an unusual joint House-Senate committee to investigate what went wrong in the government's response and what can be fixed. Establishment of a joint panel would presumably eliminate overlapping investigations that might otherwise spring up as individual committees looked into the natural disaster and its aftermath.

In a letter to the Senate's Homeland Security Committee chairwoman, Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, pressed for a wide-ranging investigation and answers to several questions, including: "How much time did the president spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C., have any effect on the federal government's response?"

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?"' Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?"'

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.

In the first government estimate of Katrina's economic impact, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office said the damage seemed likely to reduce employment by 400,000 in coming months and to trim economic growth by as much as a full percentage point in the second half of the year. The impact should be temporary, with gasoline prices declining and consumer spending rebounding, said the assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

At the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the administration was acting quickly on an emergency supplemental measure for Katrina efforts because a $10.5 billion down payment approved last week "is being spent more quickly than we even anticipated."

Bush is expected to return to the region, but the White House would not say when. Separately, first lady Laura Bush planned to travel to Mississippi on Thursday, the same day Vice President Dick Cheney heads to the Gulf states.

Buffeted by criticism of the Republican administration, GOP Senate chairmen stood in unison and announced that Congress first would open hearings on how to help the Gulf Coast recover from the disaster, and then later examine the response.

"Our role in the United States Senate will be, yes, to investigate and provide appropriate oversight, but also to lower barriers for the recovery and the rebuilding and the economic growth of the Gulf states," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Susan Collins, the senator whom Reid's letter was addressed to, said her panel would open hearings on "what should we be doing right now." Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said that as chairman of the energy and water subcommittee, he could convene a panel this week to provide the Army Corps of Engineers with the money it needs to help the region recover.

The House on Wednesday was expected to pass two Katrina-related bills: One would allow the secretary of education to waive the current rule that recipients of Pell Grants for low-income students must repay those grants when they are forced to withdraw from classes due to natural disasters.

The other would allow circuit, district and bankruptcy courts to conduct special sessions outside their geographic boundaries when they are unable to meet because of emergency conditions.

Even as they called for investigations of the government's response, several Democratic senators said it was already clear that Brown, the FEMA director, should go.

Hillary Rodham Clinton bristled when asked about Republican accusations that she was trying to capitalize on a natural disaster to help her political career.

She said on NBC's "Today," "Every time anyone raises any kind of legitimate criticism and asks questions, they're attacked."

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D, said in a telephone call with reporters Wednesday that he and other members of the Senate may try to push legislation that would separate FEMA from the Homeland Security Department. He said they may try to add the language to a spending bill that would fund the Commerce and Justice Departments.

Reid said in his letter that Collins' panel should pursue answers to several questions. Among them, why Bush and administration officials said no one anticipated the breach of the levees despite public studies and warnings, whether budget cuts thwarted the Army Corps of Engineers and whether enough troops were dispatched promptly.

    Democrats Assail White House on Katrina Effort, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Katrina-Washington.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Officers are walking door to door in New Orleans to evacuate residents.

 

Paul Buck        NYT        7.9.2005

 

Authorities Increase Pressure on Holdouts in New Orleans        NYT        7.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authorities Increase

Pressure on Holdouts in New Orleans

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times

By JERE LONGMAN
and SEWELL CHAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - The floodwaters have started to drain fitfully from this crippled city after a handful of pumps came back into operation, but so far today there have been no signs of forced evacuations under Mayor C. Ray Nagin's plans to ratchet up the pressure on the thousands of remaining citizens to leave.

Authorities have growing concerns about gas leaks, fires, toxic water and diseases spread by mosquitoes in the fetid waters flooding the city's streets and lapping at doorsteps.

A police captain, Capt. Marlon Defillo, said the law enforcement authorities were focusing for now on people who wanted to be rescued, according to The Associated Press. And Lt. Gen. Joseph R. Inge, at a Pentagon briefing, said that any such evacuations were a job for the 900 police in the city and that as a law enforcement issue, the regular troops would not be used.

That position was echoed by a senior official in charge of disaster recovery in Louisian, Art Jones, who said national guard troops would not force people out of their homes.

Mr. Nagin said late last night that he was reissuing a mandatory evacuation order and urged stragglers to leave immediately, saying he did not want possible explosions and disease to increase a death toll that, Lt. David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said could reach 2,000 to 20,000.

Today, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Skinner, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that at least five people have been confirmed dead from a bacteria in the contaminated water caused by the hurricane.

In Washington, President Bush promised an investigation into what went wrong in the response to Hurricane Katrina and planned to dispatch Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast to cut through any bureaucratic obstacles slowing the recovery.

The Senate and the House have also announced their own investigation into the government's response, with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a leading Republican, calling the response "woefully inadequate." The committee is preparing for public hearings next week on response to the storm.

Officials said about 60 percent of New Orleans was still under water, but that was down from a peak of about 80 percent. Most of the gain came because the Army Corps of Engineers began opening gaps in the city's levees after the water level in surrounding bodies of water fell. The holes ensured that the levees - designed to keep water out of the below-sea-level city - would not hold it in.

Four of the approximately 40 pumping stations in the New Orleans area were running on Tuesday at least at partial capacity, officials said, but haltingly; a fifth giant one, at the 17th Street Canal, site of a major levee breach, started but had to be shut off again because the pumps sucked in debris.

Officials said it would take 24 days to pump the water from an eastern section of New Orleans and 80 days to clear the flooding from Chalmette, the nearby seat of St. Bernard Parish.

The receding waters were expected to reveal ever more bodies, to be identified by a team of forensic pathologists, medical examiners, coroners and morticians from local funeral homes.

"We are going to take one deceased victim at a time and count one at a time," said Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. Of the process of identifying the bodies, Mr. Johannessen said, "It could take days, it could take years, it could take lifetimes."

The official death toll in Louisiana stood at 83, but state officials said the counting had only begun. In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour announced Tuesday evening that the state's "unofficial but credible estimate" of the death toll was at 196, but that it was still rising. Mr. Barbour said that more than a quarter of the deaths had been reported in inland counties, not along the coast.

Evacuees continued to come back into Jefferson Parish to check on their homes, overwhelming roads and bridges.

Louisiana officials offered a first glimpse at the environmental wreckage. The state secretary of environmental quality, Michael D. McDaniel, said that wildlife habitats along hundreds of miles of coastline had been destroyed and that the hurricane exacerbated the slow coastal erosion that had already made the coast more vulnerable to hurricanes.

Mr. McDaniel said that there was no alternative to pumping billions of gallons of brackish water back into Lake Pontchartrain, but that it was too early to determine the harmfulness of the toxins and pollutants that were being slowly sifted out of New Orleans.

In New Orleans, fires have broken out and gas leaks are numerous.

Mr. Nagin said in an interview Tuesday that a new evacuation order would eliminate exemptions that had allowed people to stay in hotels and hospitals. Essentially, the city will be closed to everyone but law enforcement, military, and public safety and health officials while it is drained of water and utilities are restored.

Mr. Nagin said that many evacuees were delirious, severely dehydrated, missing their medication and in need of immediate medical attention.

The mayor said that the National Guard had asked him whether handing out sustenance provisions would encourage people to stay, but that his response was, "Do not harm anyone, do not allow anyone to starve, do not allow anyone to go without water and always treat everyone with respect."

That left officials with the question of how to strongly encourage holdouts to leave. No one is being forced to leave yet, but officials said that could change.

"We may have to force people out to save their lives, if we get to that point," said P. Edwin Compass III, superintendent of police. "I'm using this as a tactic to scare people into leaving."

With assistance from 4,000 National Guard troops and another 4,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne, New Orleans was now secure and "locked down," with looting reduced to minimal levels, said Warren J. Riley, the deputy superintendent of the New Orleans police.

Still, parts of the city, like the Ninth Ward and New Orleans East, along with Chalmette in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, remain inundated, and it could take two months to get electricity fully restored to the hardest-hit areas, officials said. Police officers and firefighters have been inoculated against hepatitis, cholera, typhoid, tetanus and diphtheria.

The spine of St. Charles Avenue, with its broken canopy of oak trees and its streetcar tracks laced with downed power lines, provided a look at the successes and failures of New Orleans's recovery effort on Tuesday. Near St. Charles and Josephine Street, a fire consumed two city blocks, officials from the Oklahoma National Guard said.

At Lee Circle, Victor Mejia, 58, a janitor, stood in the shade and said he had no intention of leaving. "I live here," he said. "Where am I going to go?"

Jere Longman reported from New Orleans for this article, and Sewell Chan from Baton Rouge, La. Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper from Jackson, Miss.; Anne E. Kornblut from Washington; Christine Hauser from New York and Matthew L. Wald from Vicksburg, Miss.

    Authorities Increase Pressure on Holdouts in New Orleans, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 


Budget Office Says

Storm Could Cost Economy

400,000 Jobs

 

September 7, 2005
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS
The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - Hurricane Katrina is about to blow a hole in the federal budget, and it is already jeopardizing President Bush's agenda for cutting taxes and reducing the deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office reported today that it had told congressional leaders that Hurricane Katrina could reduce employment this year by 400,000 jobs and could slow the economy's expansion by as much as a full percentage point. As a nonpartisan advisor to Congress, the office had previously predicted that the economy would grow by 3.7 percent in 2005 and by 3.4 percent in 2004. The budget office's report came in a nine-page memo delivered Tuesday to Sen. Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee and the majority leader.

Also on Tuesday, administration officials told Republican lawmakers that relief efforts were running close to $700 million a day, and that the total federal cost could reach as high as $100 billion.

That would be many times the cost of any other natural disaster or even the $21 billion that was allocated for New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Still, the budget office saidin its report that the start of the recovery of the country's refineries was promising. "Last week, it appeared that larger economic impacts might occur, but despite continued uncertainty, progress in opening refineries and restarting pipelines now makes those larger impacts less likely."

It added: "While making specific estimates is fraught with uncertainty, evidence to date suggests that overall economic effects will be significant but not overwhelming."

But the expenses of Katrina are mounting just as Mr. Bush and Republican leaders are trying to push through spending cuts for programs like Medicaid and student loans, extend about $70 billion in expiring tax cuts, and reduce the federal budget deficit.

"There is no question but that the costs of this are going to exceed the costs of New York City after 9/11 by a significant multiple," said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

White House officials are planning to ask Congress as early as Wednesday for a second round of emergency financing, perhaps as much as $40 billion, but they said even that would be a "stopgap" measure while they assessed the full costs.

Though it is still too early for accurate estimates, the costs are all but certain to wreak havoc with Mr. Bush's plans to reduce the federal deficit and possibly his plans to extend tax cuts.

On Monday, Mr. Frist postponed plans to push for a vote on repealing the estate tax, a move that would benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of households, costing more than $70 billion a year once fully put in effect.

House and Senate leaders are also grappling with their pre-hurricane plan to propose $35 billion in spending cuts over the next five years for entitlement programs like Medicaid, student loans, food stamps and welfare payments.

Those cuts could suddenly prove politically unpalatable to Mr. Bush and Republican lawmakers, who are trying to rebuff criticism that the federal government shortchanged the hurricane's poorest victims.

Congressional Democrats are already using the hurricane as a reason to block Republican tax and spending plans.

"Democrats think this is the worst possible time to be cutting taxes for those at the very top and cutting the social safety net of those at the very bottom, and adding $35 billion," said Thomas S. Kahn, staff director for Democrats on the House Budget Committee.

Budget analysts said the magnitude and unique characteristics of the hurricane made it unlike any previous natural disaster, resulting in a variety of extraordinary costs:

¶Shelter for as many as a million people for months.

¶A potentially high share of uninsured property losses that stem from flooding, which is not covered by private insurers.

¶Education and health care for hundreds of thousands forced to live outside their home states.

"Katrina could easily become a milestone in the history of the federal budget," said Stanley Collender, a longtime budget analyst here. "Policies that never would have been considered before could now become standard."

Indeed, there were signs on Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats had already begun to compete with each other over who might be willing to spend more.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, predicted on Tuesday that costs could total $150 billion. Top Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have begun to call for "stimulus" measures to buck up the overall economy.

White House officials contend that costs attributable to the hurricane are separate from Mr. Bush's underlying budget goals, which include cutting the deficit in half over the next four years and permanently extending most of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003.

Budget analysts also note that natural disasters are essentially one-time costs that do not affect the government's long-run fiscal health.

"We can afford $100 billion - one time," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office. "What we cannot afford is $100 billion in additional spending year after year."

The problem is that, even without the hurricane, the federal government's underlying fiscal health is in poor shape. In July, the White House predicted that surging tax revenues would reduce the deficit this year to $333 billion from $412 billion in 2004.

But many analysts believe that the tax surge was largely a one-time event and that overall government spending is still poised to climb rapidly as a result of the war in Iraq, the Medicare prescription drug benefit and the growing number of baby boomers who will soon reach retirement age.

Before the hurricane, House and Senate Republicans were preparing to work out $35 billion in spending cuts over the next five years that would trim Medicaid payments by $10 billion and make smaller cuts in student loan programs, farm programs, food stamps, housing and cash assistance to poor families.

Under the budget resolution that Congress passed this spring, Congressional committees are supposed to spell out the proposed cuts by Sept. 16. House and Senate leaders had been planning to pass the cuts within a week or so after that.
 

Jennifer Bayot contributed reporting to this article.

    Budget Office Says Storm Could Cost Economy 400,000 Jobs, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/06cnd-deficit.html

 

 

 

 

 

Heating Oil Prices

Likely to Rise 31% This Winter

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By VIKAS BAJAJ

 

Retail gasoline prices should fall to $2.58 a gallon by the end of the year, the government said today, but consumers should not celebrate just yet. Heating oil will probably cost 31 percent more this winter than the already high prices Americans paid last year, the government said today.

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and severely disrupted the nation's energy infrastructure, the nation's energy tab is expected to climb significantly for the remainder of the year and well into next year, according to a monthly forecast released by the Energy Information Administration.

All told, the United States will spend 18 percent more on energy, or $1.03 trillion, in 2005 than it did in 2004, accounting for 8.3 percent of the gross domestic product, the highest since 1987.

The hurricane, which has displaced about one million people on the Gulf Coast and killed untold numbers, dealt a major setback to the nation's energy supply system by disrupting offshore oil and natural gas production, refineries and pipelines that transport gasoline and other fuels to the eastern half of the nation. Though the energy industry is making progress in restoring production and refineries and the pipelines have been restored to full capacity, the hurricane's impact will be felt for some time to come, the report said.

Acknowledging that it remains difficult to predict energy prices, demand and supply, the E.I.A., a division of the Energy Department, offered three recovery scenarios - fast, medium and slow. Through most of its report, the agency used its medium forecast, which calls for $3 a-gallon gasoline prices through most of September.

According to the AAA, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was selling on average for $3.042 around the country this morning, little changed from Tuesday but up about 70 cents a gallon from a month ago and $1.20 a year ago. Prices in many urban areas are hovering around $3.20.

The E.I.A. estimates Americans will still buy 100,000 barrels a day more of gasoline this year than they did last year, but that figure is about 60,000 barrels less than the agency's forecast in August.

For many consumers the greater shock may come as summer gives way to fall and winter. Americans spent 34 percent more on heating oil during the 2004-2005 winter than the year before.

Consumers who use natural gas to heat their homes will also pay more. At $13.03 per thousand cubic feet, the average 2004 price for residential natural gas prices will be 21.3 percent higher than they were in 2004.

"With the full impact on near-term domestic oil and natural gas supply of Hurricane Katrina still being assessed, the fuel price outlook for the upcoming winter remains particularly uncertain for now," the E.I.A. report said.

Spending on electricity this summer, by comparison, is expected to be up 5 percent.

    Heating Oil Prices Likely to Rise 31% This Winter, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/business/07cnd-energy.html

 

 

 

 

 

Boats cruise flooded New Orleans

but find few survivors

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
5:57 PM ET
Reuters
By Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Relief workers cruised the flooded streets of New Orleans in small boats on Tuesday, blowing whistles and yelling out for stranded survivors of Hurricane Katrina, but found few signs of life.

In Gentilly, a middle-class neighborhood that was among the hardest hit during the hurricane, street signs poked out of the murky, tea-colored waters and countless cars lay submerged amid other debris in the depths.

The bloated body of a man floated on a side street.

"Is anybody there? Does anybody need help," Troy Armstrong, a military policeman from Nevada, shouted from a boat that cruised slowly down Gentilly Boulevard, where the water was as high as eight feet in some parts.

His shouts were met with an eerie silence, broken only by the incessant barking of dogs left behind by owners during a frantic evacuation of the city. The animals stared from rooftops and the hoods of cars.

When a handful of survivors were finally located hours into the search, they refused to leave their swamped homes and join the hundreds of thousands who have already left the low-lying Mardi Gras capital.

"I don't want to leave because I've got faith in God," said Bruce St. John, the pastor of a Christian church. He said he was content to remain in his home but asked for a message to be passed to friends.

"Tell them St. John is going to weather the storm," he said.

Not even offers of food and water and warnings that such supplies would not be coming in the days or weeks ahead were enough to coax stubborn residents onto the boats.

Donald Civelo, who stood barefoot on the porch of his house in a foot of filthy water, refused to budge even though his wife, Joan, suffered from a kidney condition.

"We've got enough medication," Civelo said. He added that the couple had been reluctant to join other evacuees after hearing reports of squalor and violence at the Louisiana Superdome and other temporary shelters in the city.

Authorities evacuated thousands of refugees from the Superdome and other shelters in New Orleans last weekend, spurred by national outrage over the miserable conditions at those sites.

Although officials have strongly urged all residents to leave New Orleans, noting that it could be uninhabitable for months, they have not yet resorted to force to evacuate residents.

They worry that leaving people to their own devices in flooded homes could lead to more deaths. The official death toll from Katrina in Louisiana stands at just 71 but is expected to climb into the thousands.

    Boats cruise flooded New Orleans but find few survivors, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T215802Z_01_SPI678756_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-RESCUE-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 12, 2005        Vol. 166 No. 11

added 06.9.2005

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601050912,00.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans waters recede

as political storm rages

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
9:27 PM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Engineers pumped flood waters out of New Orleans on Tuesday and rescuers pulled out survivors of a disaster which claimed thousands of lives as the political storm grew over disorganized Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

As New Orleans authorities pleaded with survivors who have stayed in the now dangerously unsanitary city to leave, the Republican senator leading a Senate investigation into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina called it "woefully inadequate."

"If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible?" said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who will lead the investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told people who have insisted on staying in their homes to get out.

"It is a health risk. There are toxins in the water, there are gas leaks where we may have explosions. We are fighting at least four fires right now and we don't have running water. It is not safe," Nagin said.

Oil floating on toxic waters could mingle with flaming gas leaks. "If these two unite, God bless us," he said.

Police said they would begin to remove survivors from the city whether they like it or not.

"We'll do everything it takes to make this city safe. These people don't understand they're putting themselves in harm's way," police superintendent P. Edwin Compass said.

After days of delays, aid efforts have now picked up and water was being pumped out of flooded streets after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used rocks and sandbags to plug breached levees that were overwhelmed during the hurricane.

Flood levels in some areas were said to have dropped a foot

and Nagin said 60 percent of the city was now under water, down from 80 percent last week.

But it will still take weeks to dry the city out, and rescue teams expect to find thousands of bodies inside homes swallowed in the flood. Huge fires at buildings around the city hampered rescue efforts on Tuesday.

The White House is preparing a new emergency budget request for recovery efforts likely to total $40 billion to $50 billion, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said after a meeting with President George W. Bush and budget director Josh Bolten.

The money will supplement $10.5 billion approved by Congress last week.

Eight days after Katrina tore in, sending waters from Lake Pontchartrain cascading into the home of jazz and Mardi Gras, few bodies have even been recovered.

Facing a mammoth task to find, identify and bury thousands of bodies, many of them decayed, Louisiana state is looking for a burial ground with individual graves for those that cannot be identified.

 

LURED OUT WITH FOOD

Rescue teams sent dozens of boats and helicopters back into flooded neighborhoods to rescue remaining survivors, while other helicopters dropped water onto building fires.

In drier areas, rescuers offered residents food if they agreed to be evacuated.

"These are people who tried to stick it out but time and a lack of food has worn them down. So we are using food to lure them out," said Texas fireman Brady Devereaux.

"They said if we tried to stay, they will come back soon and force us out," said Warren Champ, 50.

He and about 30 others were then put on a government bus for evacuation after being patted down for weapons. Officials said about 3,000 people were rescued in the last day.

But others were refusing to budge, because they were scared their homes would be looted and they have no place to go.

"They ain't taking me nowhere, man," said Vietnam War veteran Errol Morning.

New Orleans' famous French Quarter was a militarized zone with 82nd Airborne Division troops patrolling, road blocks set up and Texas sheriffs in cowboy hats riding horses in streets that used to host the most famous street parties in America.

It was a show of force to deter criminal gangs that ran wild, looting and shooting, in the days after Katrina.

The challenges ahead are huge. State officials said 140,000 to 160,000 homes were flooded and will not be recovered, and it would take years to restore water service to all of the city.

More than a million people may have been driven from their homes -- many perhaps permanently -- with hundreds of thousands taking refuge in shelters, hotels and homes across the country following one its worst natural disasters.

 

BOTCHED RESCUE

Bungled rescue efforts in the first days of the crisis and a slew of dramatic images that made New Orleans look more like the scene of a Third World refugee crisis have touched off a political crisis for Bush.

The president said he would lead an investigation to find out what happened with the emergency operation, but he resisted growing demands for an immediate probe.

"There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I'm interested (in) is helping save lives," he said.

The New York Times said Bush's administration was trying to deflect blame to state and local authorities. The White House denied the report.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi who lost his coastal home in the storm, said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown's job is in jeopardy.

"If he doesn't solve a couple of problems that we've got right now he ain't going to be able to hold the job, because what I'm going to do to him ain't going to be pretty," he said on CBS.

Senate Democratic leader Reid backed calls for a commission, like the one that examined the September 11, 2001, attacks, to study how the hurricane response went wrong.

U.S. oil prices fell on Tuesday as industrialized countries prepared to release oil from emergency stocks and some U.S. refineries began to resume operations.

(Additional reporting by Mark Egan and Paul Simao in New Orleans; Jim Loney and Lesley Wroughton in Baton Rouge, Steve Holland and Maggie Fox in Washington)

    New Orleans waters recede as political storm rages, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-07T012741Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans bus station

becomes temporary jail

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
7:10 PM ET
Reuters
By Mark Egan

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Rapists, an attempted murder suspect and dozens of men who looted New Orleans after hurricane Katrina huddle in a temporary jail set up as police try to regain city streets which were lawless last week.

The scrawled cardboard sign on the front door of the Greyhound Bus Station, now a makeshift jail reads simply, "We Are Taking New Orleans Back."

Inside the accused, almost all black men aged 18 to 35, are herded out of confinement into buses by heavily armed officers from Angola State Penitentiary.

They stand handcuffed, disheveled and filthy, many with torn clothes, waiting to be taken to a place where they will stand trial via videoconference with judges in Baton Rouge.

The trial facility became operational on Sunday as part of an effort to restore law and order to a chaotic city, rife with crime and lawlessness for days after Katrina hit.

Louisiana State Department of Corrections Lt. Col. Bobby Achord described those held as mainly looters. Others were incarcerated for more serious accusations.

"One guy here is up for attempted murder on a New Orleans police officer," Achord told Reuters. "He was involved in a shootout with New Orleans police in an incident where the officer shot four of them dead."

"We had another guy here last night who was found shooting at a helicopter," he said.

In another case, a homeless man is accused of raping a woman in a deserted downtown street. The woman fought and freed herself then flagged down police, who apprehended her attacker.

Other crimes were less serious. Achord said some looters were caught with absurd spoils, like the man arrested fleeing a hardware store with a large bag of screws.

Facilities, where the inmates are kept for up to 24 hours before being shipped out, are crude. In cramped enclosures made of wire fences topped with barbed wire, they sit on concrete floors stained with oil from busses that normally load passengers here.

In the corner of each enclosure is a "porta-potty" with no door and a water cooler. Meals are military rations.

The temporary jail can hold 700 inmates.

Those locked up here are guarded by corrections officer from Angola prison -- a notorious facility known for it's hardened criminals and tough guards.

Pointing at officers nudging prisoners to waiting busses, Achord said, "These guards are used to handling people who are real bad. They are very professional but very firm."

Those charged with felonies will go to Angola if they are convicted. About 90 percent of Angola's inmates -- currently totaling 5,108 -- usually die there.

Since Katrina devastated New Orleans and other Louisiana towns, another 2,000 prisoners have been temporarily transferred to Angola.

Officials at the bus station jail said they want to get the message out that they are in business because most police in the mostly evacuated city are unaware it exists.

Asked if reporters could talk to the inmates, Achord suggested that was not a good idea.

"The thing is," he said, pointing at the men behind the fence, "if those guys got rowdy we do have non-lethal weapons we could use to try and control them. But if they started pushing that fence down, we'd have to kill somebody."

    New Orleans bus station becomes temporary jail, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T231036Z_01_SPI683374_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-JAIL-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Flooding Recedes in New Orleans;

U.S. Inquiry Is Set

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By JERE LONGMAN
and SEWELL CHAN

 

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 6 - The floodwaters began fitfully to drain from this crippled city on Tuesday as a handful of pumps came back into operation. But with growing concerns about gas leaks, fires, toxic water and diseases spread by mosquitoes, Mayor C. Ray Nagin said he wanted to ratchet up pressure on the estimated 5,000 to 10,000 remaining citizens to leave.

Mr. Nagin said he was reissuing a mandatory evacuation order and urged stragglers to leave immediately, saying he did not want possible explosions and disease to increase a death toll that, Lt. David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, said could reach 2,000 to 20,000.

In Washington, President Bush promised an investigation into what went wrong in the response to Hurricane Katrina and planned to dispatch Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast to cut through any bureaucratic obstacles slowing the recovery. [Page A17.]

The Senate and the House also announced their own investigation into the government's response, with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a leading Republican, calling the response "woefully inadequate."

"If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy," said Ms. Collins, chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee, "how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning and that was intent on causing as much death and destruction as possible?"

The committee is preparing for public hearings next week on response to the storm.

Officials said about 60 percent of New Orleans was still under water, but that was down from a peak of about 80 percent. Most of the gain came because the Army Corps of Engineers began opening gaps in the city's levees after the water level in surrounding bodies of water fell. The holes ensured that the levees - designed to keep water out of the below-sea-level city - would not hold it in.

Four of the approximately 40 pumping stations in the New Orleans area were running on Tuesday at least at partial capacity, officials said, but haltingly; a fifth giant one, at the 17th Street Canal, site of a major levee breach, started but had to be shut off again because the pumps sucked in debris.

Officials said it would take 24 days to pump the water from an eastern section of New Orleans and 80 days to clear the flooding from Chalmette, the nearby seat of St. Bernard Parish.

The receding waters were expected to reveal ever more bodies, to be identified by a team of forensic pathologists, medical examiners, coroners and morticians from local funeral homes.

"We are going to take one deceased victim at a time and count one at a time," said Robert Johannessen, a spokesman for Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. Of the process of identifying the bodies, Mr. Johannessen said, "It could take days, it could take years, it could take lifetimes."

The official death toll in Louisiana stood at 83, but state officials said the counting had only begun. In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour announced Tuesday evening that the state's "unofficial but credible estimate" of the death toll was at 196, but that it was still rising. Mr. Barbour said that more than a quarter of the deaths had been reported in inland counties, not along the coast.

Evacuees continued to come back into Jefferson Parish to check on their homes, overwhelming roads and bridges. Interstate 10, which connects Baton Rouge and New Orleans, was backed up for about five miles.

Louisiana officials offered a first glimpse at the environmental wreckage. The state secretary of environmental quality, Michael D. McDaniel, said that wildlife habitats along hundreds of miles of coastline had been destroyed and that the hurricane exacerbated the slow coastal erosion that had already made the coast more vulnerable to hurricanes.

Mr. McDaniel said that there was no alternative to pumping billions of gallons of brackish water back into Lake Pontchartrain, but that it was too early to determine the harmfulness of the toxins and pollutants that were being slowly sifted out of New Orleans.

"I know there's been a lot of discussion about 'toxic soup' and 'witch's brew,' " he said. "I've seen no data to date that backs up that kind of statement. We do know and would expect that there are a lot of bacteriological contaminants in the water."

In New Orleans, four major fires had broken out by Tuesday morning and gas leaks were numerous, Mayor Nagin said.

"I don't want make any statement that suggests I'm giving up on New Orleans," he said at a news conference. "But it's a very volatile situation in the city right now. There's lots of oil on the water and there's gas leaks where it's bubbling up, and there's fire on top of that. If those two unite, God bless us. I don't know what's going to happen."

Mr. Nagin said in an interview that a new evacuation order would eliminate exemptions that had allowed people to stay in hotels and hospitals. Essentially, the city will be closed to everyone but law enforcement, military, and public safety and health officials while it is drained of water and utilities are restored. The 82nd Airborne Division closed a Hyatt hotel to civilians on Tuesday afternoon.

The new evacuation order has been drafted and will be issued shortly, Mr. Nagin said, even though Louisiana state officials question his authority to issue such a command. "I don't care, I'm doing it," he said. "We have to get people out."

That meant people were once again bound to the city's convention center, where 25,000 people or more had huddled in desperate conditions for days. At St. Charles and Louisiana Avenues, about two dozen people were patted down by federal customs officials and placed on a bus for the convention center, where they were to be airlifted out of town.

Told that some people were waiting as long as three hours at the convention center before being flown out, Mr. Nagin said that was a considerable improvement over the five days that it took some people to be evacuated last week.

Lucas Russ, 65, a retired school district employee, said, "It's getting nasty and really smelly," as he prepared to board a bus with a bag of his belongings.

Mr. Russ said that National Guard troops had told him he had to leave and that he would receive no more food and water. Guard officials denied that, and Mr. Nagin said that many evacuees were delirious, severely dehydrated, missing their medication and in need of immediate medical attention.

The mayor said that the National Guard had asked him whether handing out sustenance provisions would encourage people to stay, but that his response was, "Do not harm anyone, do not allow anyone to starve, do not allow anyone to go without water and always treat everyone with respect."

That left officials with the question of how to strongly encourage holdouts to leave. No one is being forced to leave yet, but officials said that could change.

"We may have to force people out to save their lives, if we get to that point," said P. Edwin Compass III, superintendent of police. "I'm using this as a tactic to scare people into leaving."

Brig. Gen. Michael P. Fleming, an Army National Guard commander said of a forced evacuation: "It's a tough decision. Between the mayor and governor, if they decide that's what's to be done, the New Orleans Police Department, the state police and National Guard would be part of it. We would help them implement it if we're called on to do so."

With assistance from 4,000 National Guard troops and another 4,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne, New Orleans was now secure and "locked down," with looting reduced to minimal levels, said Warren J. Riley, the deputy superintendent of the New Orleans police.

Mr. Nagin said, "I think we're turning the corner."

Still, parts of the city, like the Ninth Ward and New Orleans East, along with Chalmette in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, remain inundated, and it could take two months to get electricity fully restored to the hardest-hit areas, officials said. Police officers and firefighters have been inoculated against hepatitis, cholera, typhoid, tetanus and diphtheria.

The spine of St. Charles Avenue, with its broken canopy of oak trees and its streetcar tracks laced with downed power lines, provided a look at the successes and failures of New Orleans's recovery effort on Tuesday. Near St. Charles and Josephine Street, a fire consumed two city blocks, officials from the Oklahoma National Guard said.

At Lee Circle, Victor Mejia, 58, a janitor, stood in the shade and said he had no intention of leaving. "I live here," he said. "Where am I going to go?"

With attention turning to what had gone wrong, Mr. Nagin said he wanted an independent assessment of the missteps, saying he believed the matter was beyond the ability of politicians to solve. He blamed a lack of coordination, a rescue plan that was slow to be carried out and what he called a "two-step" danced by federal and state officials to determine who was in charge.

The mayor said he welcomed any effort to criticize his own handling of the crisis.

"My big question to anybody who's trying to shift the blame is, 'Where were you?' " Mr. Nagin said. "I was here. I know what happened. I walked among the people in the Superdome and in the convention center. I saw babies dying. I saw old people so tired, they said, 'Just let me lay down and die.' They can talk that, but bring it on. I'm ready for it."

 

 

No Photographing the Dead

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 6 (Reuters) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that it did not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they were recovered in New Orleans.

FEMA rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats.

An agency spokeswoman said that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

Jere Longman reported from New Orleans for this article, and Sewell Chan from Baton Rouge, La. Michael Cooper contributed reporting from Jackson, Miss.; Anne E. Kornblut from Washington; and Matthew L. Wald from Vicksburg, Miss.

    Flooding Recedes in New Orleans; U.S. Inquiry Is Set, NYT, 7.6.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

In Nursing Home,

a Fight Lost to Rising Waters

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By GARDINER HARRIS

 

CHALMETTE, La., Sept. 6 - They nailed a table against one window, ran a heavy electric wheelchair with a table on top against another and pushed a couch against a door. These failed defenses are still in St. Rita's nursing home, as are at least 14 swollen, unrecognizable bodies.

St. Bernard Parish officials say that 32 of the home's roughly 60 residents died on Aug. 29, more than a week ago.

It is a measure of the enormity of the disaster that has struck southern Louisiana that no one has removed many of the bodies, and local officials say there are no immediate plans to do so. The flood victims still lie where they died - draped over a wheelchair, wrapped in a shower curtain, lying on a floor in several inches of muck.

The home, about 20 miles southeast of downtown New Orleans, is still surrounded by three feet of murky water. Eight vehicles are parked in front, covered in debris and mud.

Indeed, officials suspect that there may be hundreds of similar, though smaller scenes of death that will become apparent only after the water recedes and they are able to search every house in the region.

Many evacuees have told stories of near escapes, of busting out attic windows or axing through the roof to reach safety. The stories that will never be told are of those who tried and failed to make those escapes.

St. Rita's nursing home whispers this story.

Ricky Melerine, a St. Bernard Parish councilman, said the water in his area rose at least three feet from 10 to 10:15 that Monday morning. And it rose faster still after that.

Ronald Nunez, a local resident, said several men tried to save St. Rita's residents by floating some out on mattresses. Others were able to walk and float on their own to a nearby school, Mr. Nunez said.

And someone had time to put up a fight against the tide.

Nails were pounded through a table. Dressers were thrown against windows. Several electric wheelchairs were gathered near the front entrance, perhaps in hopes of evacuation. They simply ran out of time.

There are signs in the home that the water rose to the roof. Three inches of muck still cover the floors. Tadpoles wriggle in doorways. The stench is nauseating.

The story of St. Rita's leads locals here to voice the same frustrations they have about the entire disaster.

"Why didn't they evacuate?" Mr. Nunez asked. "Why?"

Mr. Nunez also said, with some bitterness, that his parish got only sporadic help from state and federal authorities.

St. Bernard's Parish has five major nursing homes with roughly 65 patients each, said Henry Rodriguez Jr., the parish president. There are another six smaller facilities, he said. Almost all but St. Rita's were evacuated before the storm.

Steve Kuiper, vice president of operations for Acadian Ambulance, said he was told that St. Rita's had an evacuation plan that depended on another nursing home. Acadian, by far the largest ambulance provider in the state, used helicopters to evacuate many of the parish's neediest medical cases after the storm hit. But Mr. Kuiper said he never heard from St. Rita's.

"They didn't think this would ever happen," Mr. Melerine said. "They just didn't evacuate."

The failure at St. Rita's is particularly difficult to explain. The home is in a depression in the ground. The nearby road, which was covered with four or five feet of water, sits at least five feet above the home's floor. The home appears in retrospect to be particularly vulnerable to flood. Efforts to reach its management late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Military and private helicopters began ferrying people out of St. Bernard Parish almost as soon as the storm hit. The Coast Guard spent much of the day of the storm landing people on a berm above the Mississippi River near downtown Chalmette, which is some of the highest ground around.

Mr. Nunez said he helped establish a shelter there. Water was running so fast down the nearby road that it nearly swept some of those seeking shelter away. Mr. Nunez said he had to tie himself to a tractor to save some people from the current.

"We ran a little over 400 people through that camp," Mr. Nunez said.

Dozens of boats are still on the side of the road in and around Chalmette, most of them washed there by the storm, and others stranded there after use by rescuers.

Janie Fuller, an Acadian paramedic, helped deliver a baby in the town jail and then managed to get a helicopter to evacuate mother and child. Ms. Fuller got another woman out who seemed to be suffering internal bleeding by commandeering an air boat and then a pickup truck to get her to a landing zone for a National Guard helicopter.

Still, the parish is only now getting the full attention of the authorities, who initially focused on the tens of thousands stranded in the Superdome and the convention center in New Orleans. For parish residents, this is a badge of honor as well as a source of quiet anger.

As a result, there are myriad stories of heroism and rescues in St. Bernard Parish. But there is also St. Rita's.

"I just can't understand how you don't evacuate," Mr. Melerine said.

    In Nursing Home, a Fight Lost to Rising Waters, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07chalmette.html

 

 

 

 

 

In Baton Rouge,

a Tinge of Evacuee Backlash

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By PETER APPLEBOME

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 6 - Last week came the rumors - of riots at Wal-Marts, of break-ins at homes, of drug gangs from New Orleans roaming the streets of its more sedate neighbor 75 miles up Interstate 10.

Today came the reality - of a dozen or more relatives crowded under one roof, of hours stuck in traffic trying to get to school or work, of frustration and fear about what kind of city Baton Rouge will be with at least 100,000 evacuees and rescue workers added to the 227,000 residents it had before the storm hit.

Make no mistake. The overwhelming response of people in Baton Rouge to Hurricane Katrina has been one of compassion and sacrifice with every church in town, it seems, housing or feeding evacuees.

But there have also been runs on gun stores, mounting frustration over gridlocked roads and an undercurrent of fear about crime and the effect of the evacuees.

After the chaos of the storm, which did some damage here, and a long weekend, Tuesday was the first day most residents returned to work and school. Before the evacuation, blacks made up about half the population of Baton Rouge and almost 70 percent of New Orleans, and in conversations in which race is often explicit or just below the surface, voices on the street, in shops, and especially in the anonymous hothouse of talk radio were raising a new question: just how compassionate can this community, almost certainly home to more evacuees than any other, afford to be?

"You can't take the city out of the yat, and you can't take the yat out of the city," said Frank Searle, a longtime Baton Rouge resident, using a slang term for New Orleanians derived from the local greeting, "Where y'at?"

"These people will not assimilate here," Mr. Searle said. "They put up with the crime in New Orleans, and now it's staring them in the face, but up here that's not going to be tolerated. People are going to handle it individually if they have to. This is the South. We will take care of it."

For a week Baton Rouge, the state capital, home of Louisiana State University and a place that sees itself as a less raucous cousin to what had been the kingdom of sin and merriment to its south, has been trying to come to terms with its sudden status as the state's most populous city.

"It's a new Baton Rouge we're living in, isn't it?" said Jeanine Smallwood of suburban Prairieville, in the middle of a 90-minute drive to work that should have taken 20.

Like many people in and near Baton Rouge, Mrs. Smallwood, her 1,700-square-foot house now sheltering 14 people, is trying to balance the need for compassion with the vertigo of a changed city. And so while she wishes all the evacuees well, she said she feared an influx of people from the housing projects of New Orleans, places, she has heard, where people walk around in T-shirts that read, "Kill the cops."

"Or so the story has it," she said. "Those aren't neighborhoods I go to."

She was so rattled, she said, she told her daughter she might have to move. On reflection, she said, there is little chance of that. Instead, she is hoping for the best.

"People are, what's the word? Not frustrated, not scared, it's more like their lives are on hold, everything's changed and we're trying to figure out what the new normal is going to be," Mrs. Smallwood said.

Many relief workers and volunteers say the worries over crime reflect more wholesale stereotyping of people fleeing a catastrophe than anything based in fact, but safety is a major issue. At the height of the post-storm panic last week, people waited in line for three and a half hours at Jim's Firearms, a giant gun and sporting goods store. Many were people from New Orleans with their own safety issues. But many were local residents jumpy about the newcomers from New Orleans and stocking up on Glock and Smith & Wesson handguns.

Jim Siegmund, a salesman at Jim's recently returned from military service in Iraq, said he did not think there was anything to worry about. Still, holding a cellphone in his hand and comparing it to a 9-millimeter handgun he said: "When push comes to shove, this won't protect you, but a Glock 9 will."

Joel Phillips, a 38-year-old contractor, said he had never owned a gun in his life, but after watching an angry argument at a gas station, he stood in line for three hours at Jim's to buy a 9-millimeter Ruger handgun and then went with a friend to a firing range over the weekend to learn how to use it.

"I have two daughters, I sometimes have to work in bad neighborhoods," Mr. Phillips said. "I probably don't need it, but I'll feel better knowing that I have some protection."

Many evacuees are staying with family or friends, their campers, S.U.V.'s and pickups parked on front lawns or circular driveways.

Most people at the broad array of shelters were dazed but appreciative of the help from local volunteers like the Louisiana State University students, upbeat and attentive, tending to sick and exhausted evacuees at the triage center on campus.

But others, particularly those at the main Red Cross shelter at the River Center convention center downtown, were seething with frustration, not just over the disaster they were fleeing, but from the sense that they were being treated not so much like guests as people being warehoused until they could be shipped elsewhere.

Patricia Perry, a postal employee from New Orleans, said anyone with a wristband from the River Center shelter was being stereotyped outside it as one of "those people" - looters, criminals, outcasts.

"It's like a stigma," she said. "All they really want to do is get us out of town. Well, I'm from Louisiana. I work hard. I pay my taxes. Surely, this state can find a place for us to live."

Still, many residents, with the sense of intimacy that remains so much a part of Southern life, took their role as hosts seriously, as if it would be bad manners, the ultimate sin in the South, to do otherwise.

So when Pam Robertson, manager of a convenience store, asked a customer how he was doing, it was not dutiful chatter but a real question that begged for a real answer.

When it came, she took the man's hand in hers over the counter and talked about her friend Hunter, evacuated from Loyola University, about her upbringing in the town of Henderson in the heart of Cajun country, about the grid of local streets here.

She greeted one and all with the same missionary zeal, as if the right words could somehow undo the disaster of the past week.

And when asked how she was doing, or even when they didn't, she replied: "I'm tired, but I'm hanging in. It's good. It's all good. God is good. We'll get through it."

    In Baton Rouge, a Tinge of Evacuee Backlash, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07backlash.html

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane's Toll

Is Likely to Reshape

Bush's Economic Agenda

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - Hurricane Katrina is about to blow a hole in the federal budget, and it is already jeopardizing President Bush's agenda for cutting taxes and reducing the deficit.

Administration officials told Republican lawmakers on Tuesday that relief efforts were running close to $700 million a day, and that the total federal cost could reach as high as $100 billion.

That would be many times the cost of any other natural disaster or even the $21 billion that was allocated for New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The expenses would come just as Mr. Bush and Republican leaders are trying to push through spending cuts for programs like Medicaid and student loans, extend about $70 billion in expiring tax cuts, and reduce the federal budget deficit.

"There is no question but that the costs of this are going to exceed the costs of New York City after 9/11 by a significant multiple," said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

White House officials are planning to ask Congress as early as Wednesday for a second round of emergency financing, perhaps as much as $40 billion, but they said even that would be a "stopgap" measure while they assessed the full costs.

Though it is still too early for accurate estimates, the costs are all but certain to wreak havoc with Mr. Bush's plans to reduce the federal deficit and possibly his plans to extend tax cuts.

On Monday, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, postponed plans to push for a vote on repealing the estate tax, a move that would benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of households, costing more than $70 billion a year once fully put in effect.

House and Senate leaders are also grappling with their pre-hurricane plan to propose $35 billion in spending cuts over the next five years for entitlement programs like Medicaid, student loans, food stamps and welfare payments.

Those cuts could suddenly prove politically unpalatable to Mr. Bush and Republican lawmakers, who are trying to rebuff criticism that the federal government shortchanged the hurricane's poorest victims.

Congressional Democrats are already using the hurricane as a reason to block Republican tax and spending plans.

"Democrats think this is the worst possible time to be cutting taxes for those at the very top and cutting the social safety net of those at the very bottom, and adding $35 billion," said Thomas S. Kahn, staff director for Democrats on the House Budget Committee.

Budget analysts said the magnitude and unique characteristics of the hurricane made it unlike any previous natural disaster, resulting in a variety of extraordinary costs:

¶Shelter for as many as a million people for months.

¶A potentially high share of uninsured property losses that stem from flooding, which is not covered by private insurers.

¶Education and health care for hundreds of thousands forced to live outside their home states.

"Katrina could easily become a milestone in the history of the federal budget," said Stanley Collender, a longtime budget analyst here. "Policies that never would have been considered before could now become standard."

Indeed, there were signs on Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats had already begun to compete with each other over who might be willing to spend more.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, predicted on Tuesday that costs could total $150 billion. Top Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have begun to call for "stimulus" measures to buck up the overall economy.

White House officials contend that costs attributable to the hurricane are separate from Mr. Bush's underlying budget goals, which include cutting the deficit in half over the next four years and permanently extending most of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003.

Budget analysts also note that natural disasters are essentially one-time costs that do not affect the government's long-run fiscal health.

"We can afford $100 billion - one time," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office. "What we cannot afford is $100 billion in additional spending year after year."

The problem is that, even without the hurricane, the federal government's underlying fiscal health is in poor shape. In July, the White House predicted that surging tax revenues would reduce the deficit this year to $333 billion from $412 billion in 2004.

But many analysts believe that the tax surge was largely a one-time event and that overall government spending is still poised to climb rapidly as a result of the war in Iraq, the Medicare prescription drug benefit and the growing number of baby boomers who will soon reach retirement age.

Before the hurricane, House and Senate Republicans were preparing to work out $35 billion in spending cuts over the next five years that would trim Medicaid payments by $10 billion and make smaller cuts in student loan programs, farm programs, food stamps, housing and cash assistance to poor families.

Under the budget resolution that Congress passed this spring, Congressional committees are supposed to spell out the proposed cuts by Sept. 16. House and Senate leaders had been planning to pass the cuts within a week or so after that.

    Hurricane's Toll Is Likely to Reshape Bush's Economic Agenda, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07deficit.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Bell

Editorial cartoon

The Guardian        p. 22        7.9.2005

 

left to right :

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as a poodle,

Barbara Bush, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Promises to Seek Answers

to Failures of Hurricane Relief

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By ANNE E. KORNBLUT
and CARL HULSE

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - Under relentless political fire over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush on Tuesday tried to steer the public debate toward progress in the region, promising to investigate earlier stumbles, as anxious lawmakers returned to the Capitol pledging inquiries of their own and aid money for the storm victims.

Mr. Bush, in a flurry of meetings at the White House, said he would dispatch Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast this week to cut through any bureaucratic obstacles slowing recovery efforts. Members of Congress demanded answers and awaited a new emergency spending measure from the White House, calculating the growing cost of the recovery at $50 billion, if not more than twice that.

Fresh from their summer recess, lawmakers questioned the effectiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and pledged to hold hearings and possibly enact legislation to address the failures in the response system.

"It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years and for which specific dire warnings had been given for days," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will conduct one of the main inquiries.

There will be at least two sets of Congressional hearings, leaders said, beginning as early as next week, to examine issues like failures in the command and control structure, shortcomings in the evacuation plan for New Orleans, and any organizational problems that may have contributed to the slow response.

The hearings will also address whether the government missed critical opportunities to shore up the levees in New Orleans and whether planning for future disasters is sufficient.

Lawmakers, at least in the Senate, said it would be too early to consider whether Mr. Bush would be called to testify.

For the first time since the hurricane hit, Mr. Bush met with leaders from both parties, capping a day of constant political attention to a crisis that has exposed fault lines within the Republican Party and threatens to overtake the entire Congressional agenda. Mr. Bush promised to lead an investigation into what went wrong, although a White House spokesman quickly qualified the statement, saying the inquiry would come later to avoid diverting resources from the recovery efforts.

Mr. Bush also resisted renewed calls to fire Michael D. Brown, the director of FEMA, who became a lightning rod for attacks last week when he said he was unaware of a crisis at the New Orleans convention center, news of which had been televised for days. Instead, Mr. Bush accused critics of playing the "blame game" and said he would remain focused on the immediate crisis as evacuees fanned out across the country.

"We've got to solve problems; we're problem-solvers," he said. "There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong. What I'm interested in is helping save lives."

At issue in the immediate future is the amount of money the government will allocate for the recovery and reconstruction efforts. Mr. Bush signed a $10.5 billion spending measure last Friday, and Congressional leaders said they expected to receive a $40 billion to $50 billion supplemental spending request this week. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said the total bill could reach $150 billion, further squeezing a budget constrained by the nearly $5 billion spent each month on the Iraq war and the $333 billion federal deficit.

The $150 billion projection was quickly disputed by Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican leader, who suggested that Mr. Reid was "playing politics" by giving that figure when no official projections were available. But White House officials have not disputed estimates in the tens of billions of dollars.

Senior administration officials rejected accusations that the federal government had been slow to respond, detailing progress on the military, education and social services fronts. Mr. Bush, after meeting with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, said the administration was reviewing ways to help states like Texas absorb the costs of accommodating thousands of children of evacuees in their public school systems.

At the Pentagon, senior officials pointed to the arrival of forces in the Gulf Coast in recent days, with more than 41,000 National Guardsmen and about 17,000 active-duty personnel committed to the mission. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised what he described as a more than adequate military response.

"Not only was there no delay, I think we anticipated, in most cases - not in all cases - but in most cases, the support that was required," General Myers said at a news briefing. "And we were pushing support before we were formally asked for it."

Even so, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had ordered the military to conduct a "lessons learned" study on the armed forces' response to the hurricane to determine whether it could have been more timely.

And Mr. Bush, in the first of several hurricane-related events throughout the day, made an unexpected pledge to personally lead an inquiry into earlier failures.

"What I intend to do is lead a - to lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Mr. Bush, after meeting with his cabinet, said in response to a question about who would be held accountable.

"And I'll tell you why," he continued. "It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe. And the reason it's important is, is that we still live in an unsettled world."

Pressed for details about the investigation, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said it would not begin until the immediate crisis had passed.

Describing it as an "analysis," not an investigation, Mr. McClellan would not say whether the emergency failures would be examined by an independent commission, as the Sept. 11 attacks were, or even when the president wanted the process to start.

"There will be a time to do a thorough analysis," Mr. McClellan said. "Now is not the time to do that."

Instead, Congress appeared poised to take the lead.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said she was introducing legislation to create an independent commission.

Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said his panel would begin hearings on the government response, a move that came after Senate leaders had announced their own plans for hearings and that appeared to catch House leaders off guard.

"We are going to look at Mr. Davis's hearing," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois. "What we don't want to have happen is that the people who are on the ground in the Gulf States have to come up here and talk to 13 or 14 different groups."

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who will help lead the Senate investigation with Ms. Collins, said the federal response to Hurricane Katrina had shaken the public's confidence in the ability of the government to protect them.

"Hurricane Katrina was in one sense the most significant test of the new national emergency preparedness and response system that was created after 9/11, and it obviously did not pass that test," Mr. Lieberman said.

Some Republican lawmakers said they had tried to impress upon their party's leaders what they believe are the political risks involved in the disaster response, fearing that Republicans have exposed themselves to significant political risk in next year's elections by having appeared not to take the hurricane and its aftermath seriously at first.

Already, the hurricane has upended the fall legislative agenda. Leaders of both the House and the Senate have said their chief mission in the coming weeks would be to provide relief to storm victims and begin rebuilding devastated communities.

Under pressure from Democrats, the Senate postponed a vote on a proposal to eliminate the estate tax, while House officials said they expected to delay a budget bill that would require cuts in health care and education.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.

    Bush Promises to Seek Answers to Failures of Hurricane Relief, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07bush.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Bell        If...        The Guardian > G2        p. 23

7.9.2005

George W. Bush as a cowboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Police threaten forced evacuation

 

Wed Sep 7, 2005
12:48 PM ET
Reuters
By Michael Christie

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Police threatened to force reluctant Hurricane Katrina survivors to leave a ruined and fetid New Orleans on Wednesday as a political storm grew over the botched response to the disaster that some say could cost $150 billion.

Troops and police fanned out across town, trying to enforce a mandatory evacuation order from Mayor Ray Nagin, who said the flooded city was a health danger without a functioning economy or basic services.

Thousands are feared dead from the hurricane and its aftermath. Teams searching flooded areas of the city, which is still 60 percent under water, tied bodies to trees or fences when they found them and noted the location for later recovery.

Nagin said floodwaters threatened those still clinging to the life they knew before Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, with garbage, oil and waste floating in stagnant pools inundating the historic city that is now largely abandoned.

But as in many aspects of the rescue effort, there was confusion about whether the government could or would force people from their homes.

"We personally will not force anyone out of their homes," said Art Jones, a senior official in the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "It's very difficult to force an American out of their home."

State and local police, however, said force would be used if necessary.

"We'll do everything it takes to make this city safe. These people don't understand they're putting themselves in harm's way," said New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass.

Cars that had crowded New Orleans streets now were visible poking up through its flooded thoroughfares. This post-Katrina city buzzed with helicopters landing on overpasses to drop off rescued people to lines of waiting ambulances.

The skies were thick with sleek and menacing Black Hawks, twin-rotor Chinooks, orange-colored Coast Guard choppers and others of every stripe. Slow-moving military transport planes also rumbled overhead, bringing supplies.

"The sounds of New Orleans were jazz, people laughing, people eating a good meal," Nagin said. "And now the sounds of New Orleans are helicopters and army vehicles. This is almost surreal."

 

ECONOMIC COST SOARS

As the scope of the disaster that has driven more than a million people from their homes became clearer, financial estimates of its cost grew.

The Congressional Budget Office said Hurricane Katrina could cost as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs and slash economic growth by up to 1 percentage point.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the cost of recovery and relief could be more than $150 billion. Louisiana Homeland Security's Jones said the storm's cost will exceed $100 billion.

The White House is preparing a new emergency budget request likely to total $40 billion to $50 billion for the recovery, in addition to $10.5 billion approved by Congress last week.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he would lead an investigation into the emergency operation which has been criticized for not being prepared for the long-predicted storm, but he resisted demands for an immediate probe.

"There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I'm interested (in) is helping save lives," he said.

Bush's response to the crisis was rated "bad" or "terrible" by 42 percent of Americans surveyed for a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll released on Wednesday, compared with 35 percent who said it was "good" or "great." The federal government's performance received the same ratings, while the response of state and local officials was viewed negatively by 35 percent and positively by 37 percent.

 

"IF I'M GOING TO BE MISERABLE"

Out on New Orleans streets, which look like a war zone with thousands of soldiers and police on patrol, National Guard troops went from house to house, person to person, trying to convince them to leave.

They explained the dangers of staying put and gave them information about how to evacuate, but also assured that the city that was crime-ridden and chaotic in the days after Katrina was now safe.

Florence Castets, appeared nervous as the troops spoke to her in an area near the Garden District, and she was noncommittal about her plans.

"I don't have any information, though I have felt safer here than going anyplace else," she said. "The people who knew us left us behind. They were more concerned about their cars and dogs than us."

The die-hard inhabitants of a city mainly known for jazz and Mardi Gras before it became a disaster area of Third-World proportions say they fear evacuation to parts of the country where they have no family or means of support.

"If I'm gonna be miserable, I'd better be miserable right here," said Robert Johnson, 58, from his rundown house in the city's 9th Ward.

Martha Smith-Aguillard, 72, said she was brought against her will to an evacuation point at the city's wrecked convention center. Her foot was swollen after she trod on a rusty nail and she said she needed a tetanus shot.

Nonetheless, she refused to board a government helicopter.

"They manhandled me and paid no mind to what I said. I ain't never been in no helicopter in my life, or no airplane, and I'm 72, I ain't starting now," she said.

"I'm not going to get that tetanus shot, so I guess I'll just have to die," she said, adding, "We're all going to die and if I'm going to die, it's gonna be right here in New Orleans."

(Additional reporting by Adam Entous in Washington)

    Police threaten forced evacuation, R, 7.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-07T164904Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Victims face bewildering options

 

Wed Sep 7, 2005
12:12 PM ET
Reuters
By Adam Tanner

 

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Free housing options for refugees from Hurricane Katrina include hotel rooms, private homes, cruise ship staterooms and the world's largest homeless shelter, but where survivors end up depends on luck and determination.

Texas has evacuated 245,000 people from Louisiana, and thousands more came on their own and received public shelter. But the standards vary dramatically as local officials scramble to accommodate one of the greatest flows of displaced people in U.S. history.

The unprecedented scope of the problem, bureaucracy and an inundation of information means few Katrina victims know exactly what choices they have. Many officials are also bewildered.

"Oh, it's confusing, especially if you don't know the place," said Johnny O'Conner, 65, a retired school maintenance worker from New Orleans who left just before the storm hit. "You've got to go and roll with the punches."

O'Conner was staying in a hotel in Port Arthur, Texas, near the Louisiana border, that offered tennis and swimming. He had paid for a week's stay out of his own pocket and was surprised but happy to learn that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay for a two-week stay.

The hotel's owner said he was unsure whether he would receive government payment for evacuees he was hosting.

"It's all confusing," Nick Shah said. "We don't know if it is going to work out for us."

Few of the 16,000 sleeping at the giant Houston Astrodome knew free hotel rooms were an option. After the squalor and danger of the Superdome in New Orleans, many said only they were grateful for a clean, well-supplied place to sleep.

But tensions increase over time at large facilities, and on Tuesday officials reported two cases of attempted rape in Houston shelters.

 

HOTEL TO SHELTER

Oscar Alegria, 49, an oil pipeline inspector from New Orleans, spent one night in his car and two nights at a four-star hotel in downtown Houston before running low on funds and joining 2,000 others at the city's convention center.

"I don't want to be here a long period," he said, sitting on one of a long line of inflatable mattresses.

At the hotel he had left, guests were advised to save receipts for FEMA reimbursement. "There ain't nothing fair about any of this," said a displaced man there who hoped to have the U.S. federal government reimburse his hotel costs.

Two cruise ships slated to house 2,000 people each off Galveston, on the coast near Houston, have so far proven unpopular, with some flood victims saying they have seen enough of water and others reluctant to pack up and move again.

Some refugees may be able to find public housing, but only if they act quickly.

The director of the housing authority in Port Arthur, Texas, Cele Quesada, said he had put up 72 families, but had only 30 units left.

Mary Broussard, who works for Texas Gas Service, also took in a refugee, a 21-year-old woman the same age as her daughter. "Quickly she became part of the family," she said. "She cooked dinner for me the other night."

Other families nationwide offered to host people, but survivors must navigate the Internet to find those offers.

    Victims face bewildering options, R, 7.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-07T161253Z_01_MCC757749_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-CHOICES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Down New Roots

on More Solid Ground

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times

By SUSAN SAULNY

 

HOUSTON, Sept. 6 - In her 19 years, all spent living in downtown New Orleans, Chavon Allen had never ventured farther than her bus fare would allow, and that was one trip last year to Baton Rouge. But now that she has seen Houston, she is planning to stay.

"This is a whole new beginning, a whole new start. I mean, why pass up a good opportunity, to go back to something that you know has problems?" asked Ms. Allen, who had been earning $5.15 an hour serving chicken in a Popeyes restaurant.

For Daphne Barconey, Hurricane Katrina disrupted plans for a grand house to be built on a $150,000 lot that she bought in eastern New Orleans just months ago.

Now, just eight days after the storm, she has a job in a hospital here, a year's lease on a four-bedroom apartment near the Galleria mall and no plan to return to New Orleans.

Jason Magee is a professional golfer who says now is the time to move away from his native New Orleans. "I had been looking for an excuse to leave, and this is it," he said.

From across the economic spectrum, whether with heavy hearts or with optimism, the hundreds of thousands of people who fled the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are already putting down roots in new cities. If even a fraction of them decide not to return, the migration threatens a population crash that could be nearly as devastating to the New Orleans area as the storm itself.

And city officials know it. After days of asking, then demanding, now practically begging the residents of New Orleans to leave, they have mentally if not publicly changed gears and are devising strategy behind the scenes about how they will accomplish a titanic shift - in effect, a reverse evacuation.

Since its population peaked at almost 630,000 in 1960, New Orleans has been steadily losing its people. According to the last census, 445,000 people lived there. But a trickle of people over the decades is quite a different matter from what the city now faces, a sudden population bust that could subtract up to 250,000 people.

"I look at the situation, and it brings fear," said Rodney Braxton, the city's chief legislative lobbyist. "If there's one thing that gives me sorrow beyond the loss of life, it's that."

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, head of the department of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, underscored the size of the problem. "If a big chunk of the population doesn't come back, it's going to be horrific for the city," she said.

In Houston alone, close to 1,200 evacuees moved on Tuesday from the Astrodome into apartments with six-month leases.

"We know that with each passing day it's going to be harder to bring them back," Mr. Braxton said. "But we are going to fight for them."

So far, that fight is only in its infancy, but the first phase is already taking shape. Kenya Smith, the city's chief of intergovernmental relations, said city leaders intended to establish New Orleans-run centers in every area where large numbers of evacuees were known to be living.

The centers would be clearinghouses for information, providing neighborhood-by-neighborhood details about floodwaters and cleanup efforts, utilities and phone service.

The centers would also function as registration sites, to keep track of who is where.

The city intends to establish a toll-free number providing daily updates on information like the condition of the streets and giving residents opportunities to communicate with city officials.

Beyond that, Mr. Smith said, plans will have to be tailored to the different segments of society.

"Large pockets of our people will not have the means to travel great distances to get back, so we know we will have to help with that," Mr. Smith said.

Incentives are being discussed for evacuees who were better off.

"We intend to make it as easy as possible and to give them something to come home to," Mr. Braxton said, emphasizing the importance of improved infrastructure and storm protections. "There will have to be some creative legislation and ideas."

Mr. Magee, the golfer, says the storm will change the city's demographics.

"The middle class is dislodged now, and in six months, they're going to have to have a really compelling reason to move," he said.

Some people faithful to New Orleans will return no matter what. Glen Andrews, a jazz trombonist staying in the Astrodome, on Tuesday echoed the words of Fats Domino, a New Orleans native.

"I'm going home even if it comes down to walking to New Orleans," Mr. Andrews said. "It's my life, and I prefer to be in Louisiana, period. And it doesn't matter what's left there. I'm going to rebuild even if I have to hold a shovel and a horn at the same time."

But countless others were dissatisfied with their lives in New Orleans and were already thinking about leaving before the storm hit.

"Honestly, it was bad before," said Ms. Barconey, a 39-year-old nurse, citing the high poverty rate and poor public education. "It would have to be better than what it was."

Before the hurricane, the city was making itself better for both the middle class and the working class.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin had started economic development and building programs valued at about $4 billion and had pressed for homeownership in the city's poorest areas.

In fact, many residents had begun to move back to the city's core around the French Quarter, into newly gentrified areas like the Warehouse District along the Mississippi River and the Faubourg Marigny.

City officials hope the rebuilding effort will bolster their economy.

"One thing New Orleans was lacking was jobs," said Cynthia Hedge Morrell, a member of the City Council. "Now the rebuilding is going to bring a lot of good old-fashioned jobs. Bricklayers, plumbers, woodworkers, contractors. So is it going to be difficult? Yeah, and they might put off moving back for a while. But I do believe people want to come back to their home."

Given how she feels now, Ms. Barconey says the makeover will have to be extreme. "They're going to have to, some kind of way, raise that city above sea level or I'm not going back. I'm serious. I'm not putting myself in that same predicament."

If city officials were to take the advice of urban planners, they would already be putting out strong messages that the destruction would not be repeated once new levees and drains were built.

"There need to be assurances that where people are rebuilding, no new flooding will happen," Dr. Loukaitou-Sideris said, adding that officials need to come together and publicize a master plan for the city.

"Cities that lose population eventually decline, but New Orleans is a city with such character, that would be hard to imagine unless people totally lose faith in their government," she said.

After the way she was treated during the evacuation, Ms. Allen says she has lost that faith. Being evacuated from the Superdome, she sobbed through a cascade of tears on a Greyhound bus: "Goodbye New Orleans. Bye-bye Louisiana."

Looking back at that moment from a grassy stretch outside the Astrodome on Tuesday, she said she knew even then that goodbye meant forever.

    Putting Down New Roots on More Solid Ground, NYT, 7.6.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07home.html

 

 

 

 

 

Across Nation,

Storm Victims Crowd Schools

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By SAM DILLON

 

School districts from Maine to Washington State were enrolling thousands of students from New Orleans and other devastated Gulf Coast districts yesterday in what experts said could become the largest student resettlement in the nation's history.

Schools welcoming the displaced students must not only provide classrooms, teachers and textbooks, but under the terms of President Bush's education law must also almost immediately begin to raise their scholastic achievement unless some provisions of that law are waived.

Historians said that those twin challenges surpassed anything that public education had experienced since its creation after the Civil War, including disasters that devastated whole school districts, like the San Francisco earthquake and the Chicago fire.

"In terms of school systems absorbing kids whose lives and homes have been shattered, what we're going to watch over the next weeks is unprecedented in American education," said Jeffrey Mirel, a professor of history and education at the University of Michigan.

The vast resettlement was already under way last week, with schools in Baton Rouge, La., Houston and other cities near the Gulf Coast enrolling some students. Yesterday, officials in cities including San Antonio; Phoenix; Olympia, Wash.; Freeport, Me.; Memphis; Washington; Las Vegas; Salt Lake City; Chicago; Detroit; and Philadelphia reported enrolling students or preparing for their arrival.

The total number of displaced students is not yet known, but it appears to be well above 200,000. In Louisiana, 135,000 public school students and 52,000 private school students have been displaced from Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.

President Bush, speaking with reporters at the White House yesterday, thanked the nation's educators "for reaching out and doing their duty," and he said that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was working on a plan to help states absorb the educational costs but gave no hint of what kind of assistance might be provided. The Department of Education set up a Web site to coordinate private donations to schools enrolling displaced students.

"They said we could brace for about 500 kids," said Sue Steele, coordinator of homeless student programs for the public schools in Wichita, where buses carrying 1,800 storm victims were expected to arrive yesterday, part of some 7,000 headed for Kansas.

Many students were concentrated in districts along an arc from the Florida Panhandle west through Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas.

The Santa Rosa County School District in the Florida Panhandle has enrolled 137 students, said Carol Calfee, a district official.

"And we still have folks coming in," she said. "They're walking through the door and some of them just have nothing, so it's really hard." The local United Way has said it will try to buy school supplies for every displaced student, she said.

The crisis poses new challenges for Ms. Spellings, including financial. The Department of Education's budget this year for homeless student programs is about $61 million, which she said was insufficient.

Ms. Spellings, who has spent her first months in office fighting a backlash by local educators and state lawmakers against the federal law known as No Child Left Behind, is also hearing calls from advocacy groups that she take emergency measures that could be controversial.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, asked her on Friday to waive the accountability provisions of the law for schools in the hurricane's path as well as in Texas and other states receiving large numbers of students, a move Ms. Spellings said she was reluctant to take.

Private companies that operate online courses or charter schools are urging her to use emergency powers to authorize them to enroll displaced students at the Houston Astrodome and other shelters across the nation.

Ms. Spellings has invited 40 education groups, including the P.T.A. and teachers unions, to meet at the Department of Education today to discuss disaster recovery efforts. Reg Weaver, president of the N.E.A., which has challenged No Child Left Behind in federal court, said he immediately accepted the invitation.

But in a separate letter, he also asked Ms. Spellings to use her powers to waive provisions of the law, which requires school districts to raise student scores on standardized tests each year by a percentage set by each state, a goal known as making adequate yearly progress.

"Until these children, their teachers, districts and families gain their footing under these extremely difficult circumstances, I encourage you to implement the provisions in N.C.L.B. that deal with the impact of natural disasters on testing and adequate yearly progress," Mr. Weaver's letter said.

Ms. Spellings is consulting with state school superintendents as she considers whether to waive the law's accountability provisions in some cases, said her spokeswoman, Susan Aspey. One consideration is how many displaced students that individual schools or districts enroll; those with higher concentrations may be more likely to receive waivers, Ms. Aspey said.

"There is no one-size-fits-all approach," she said.

Even before the storm, hundreds of schools that had failed to meet the federal law's proficiency requirements for several years, most of which educate the urban poor or non-English speaking immigrants, were facing sanctions that include school closings and the firing of staff. Thousands of others were expected to be placed on academic probation or labeled as low-performing.

Theodore R. Sizer, a visiting professor of history at Harvard, said that unless the law's accountability provisions were waived during the emergency, they would add tensions to the resettlement crisis.

"Imagine you're the principal of a big high school in city X, and your scores are above the state minimums, so you're doing fine with the law, and suddenly you have 300 displaced kids," Mr. Sizer said. "That not only brings crowding but also means that on the next exams your scores could plummet and the federal law will say you run a terrible school."

The Bush administration must also make decisions about another hotly debated issue in public education: charter schools. The National Council of Education Providers, which represents the nation's largest commercial school management companies, has asked the Department of Education to authorize it to enroll students housed at emergency shelters in Internet-based courses offered by its companies.

The National Council's Web site yesterday highlighted its request to the department to establish a "national virtual charter school" that would "serve evacuees wherever they are."

"Once students have access to computers and connectivity - borrowed, donated or shared - companies are standing by to waive state restrictions and log these students on," the Web site said. The restrictions in question include enrollment caps in state laws that apply to charter schools. The National Council wants the federal government to waive those laws during the emergency.

Jeanne Allen, a paid consultant to the National Council who is also president of the Center for Education Reform, a nonprofit organization, said she delivered a draft "Emergency Public Charter School Act" to members of Congress yesterday.

    Across Nation, Storm Victims Crowd Schools, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07child.html

 

 

 

 

 

In Nursing Home,

a Fight Lost to Rising Waters

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By GARDINER HARRIS

 

CHALMETTE, La., Sept. 6 - They nailed a table against one window, ran a heavy electric wheelchair with a table on top against another and pushed a couch against a door. These failed defenses are still in St. Rita's nursing home, as are at least 14 swollen, unrecognizable bodies.

St. Bernard Parish officials say that 32 of the home's roughly 60 residents died on Aug. 29, more than a week ago.

It is a measure of the enormity of the disaster that has struck southern Louisiana that no one has removed many of the bodies, and local officials say there are no immediate plans to do so. The flood victims still lie where they died - draped over a wheelchair, wrapped in a shower curtain, lying on a floor in several inches of muck.

The home, about 20 miles southeast of downtown New Orleans, is still surrounded by three feet of murky water. Eight vehicles are parked in front, covered in debris and mud.

Indeed, officials suspect that there may be hundreds of similar, though smaller scenes of death that will become apparent only after the water recedes and they are able to search every house in the region.

Many evacuees have told stories of near escapes, of busting out attic windows or axing through the roof to reach safety. The stories that will never be told are of those who tried and failed to make those escapes.

St. Rita's nursing home whispers this story.

Ricky Melerine, a St. Bernard Parish councilman, said the water in his area rose at least three feet from 10 to 10:15 that Monday morning. And it rose faster still after that.

Ronald Nunez, a local resident, said several men tried to save St. Rita's residents by floating some out on mattresses. Others were able to walk and float on their own to a nearby school, Mr. Nunez said.

And someone had time to put up a fight against the tide.

Nails were pounded through a table. Dressers were thrown against windows. Several electric wheelchairs were gathered near the front entrance, perhaps in hopes of evacuation. They simply ran out of time.

There are signs in the home that the water rose to the roof. Three inches of muck still cover the floors. Tadpoles wriggle in doorways. The stench is nauseating.

The story of St. Rita's leads locals here to voice the same frustrations they have about the entire disaster.

"Why didn't they evacuate?" Mr. Nunez asked. "Why?"

Mr. Nunez also said, with some bitterness, that his parish got only sporadic help from state and federal authorities.

St. Bernard's Parish has five major nursing homes with roughly 65 patients each, said Henry Rodriguez Jr., the parish president. There are another six smaller facilities, he said. Almost all but St. Rita's were evacuated before the storm.

Steve Kuiper, vice president of operations for Acadian Ambulance, said he was told that St. Rita's had an evacuation plan that depended on another nursing home. Acadian, by far the largest ambulance provider in the state, used helicopters to evacuate many of the parish's neediest medical cases after the storm hit. But Mr. Kuiper said he never heard from St. Rita's.

"They didn't think this would ever happen," Mr. Melerine said. "They just didn't evacuate."

The failure at St. Rita's is particularly difficult to explain. The home is in a depression in the ground. The nearby road, which was covered with four or five feet of water, sits at least five feet above the home's floor. The home appears in retrospect to be particularly vulnerable to flood. Efforts to reach its management late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Military and private helicopters began ferrying people out of St. Bernard Parish almost as soon as the storm hit. The Coast Guard spent much of the day of the storm landing people on a berm above the Mississippi River near downtown Chalmette, which is some of the highest ground around.

Mr. Nunez said he helped establish a shelter there. Water was running so fast down the nearby road that it nearly swept some of those seeking shelter away. Mr. Nunez said he had to tie himself to a tractor to save some people from the current.

"We ran a little over 400 people through that camp," Mr. Nunez said.

Dozens of boats are still on the side of the road in and around Chalmette, most of them washed there by the storm, and others stranded there after use by rescuers.

Janie Fuller, an Acadian paramedic, helped deliver a baby in the town jail and then managed to get a helicopter to evacuate mother and child. Ms. Fuller got another woman out who seemed to be suffering internal bleeding by commandeering an air boat and then a pickup truck to get her to a landing zone for a National Guard helicopter.

Still, the parish is only now getting the full attention of the authorities, who initially focused on the tens of thousands stranded in the Superdome and the convention center in New Orleans. For parish residents, this is a badge of honor as well as a source of quiet anger.

As a result, there are myriad stories of heroism and rescues in St. Bernard Parish. But there is also St. Rita's.

"I just can't understand how you don't evacuate," Mr. Melerine said.

    In Nursing Home, a Fight Lost to Rising Waters, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07chalmette.html

 

 

 

 

 


Amid One City's Welcome,

a Tinge of Backlash

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times

By PETER APPLEBOME

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 6 - Last week came the rumors - of riots at Wal-Marts, of break-ins at homes, of drug gangs from New Orleans roaming the streets of its more sedate neighbor 75 miles up Interstate 10.

Today came the reality - of a dozen or more relatives crowded under one roof, of hours stuck in traffic trying to get to school or work, of frustration and fear about what kind of city Baton Rouge will be with at least 100,000 evacuees and rescue workers added to the 227,000 residents it had before the storm hit.

Make no mistake. The overwhelming response of people in Baton Rouge to Hurricane Katrina has been one of compassion and sacrifice with every church in town, it seems, housing or feeding evacuees.

But there have also been runs on gun stores, mounting frustration over gridlocked roads and an undercurrent of fear about crime and the effect of the evacuees.

After the chaos of the storm, which did some damage here, and a long weekend, Tuesday was the first day most residents returned to work and school. Before the evacuation, blacks made up about half the population of Baton Rouge and almost 70 percent of New Orleans, and in conversations in which race is often explicit or just below the surface, voices on the street, in shops, and especially in the anonymous hothouse of talk radio were raising a new question: just how compassionate can this community, almost certainly home to more evacuees than any other, afford to be?

"You can't take the city out of the yat, and you can't take the yat out of the city," said Frank Searle, a longtime Baton Rouge resident, using a slang term for New Orleanians derived from the local greeting, "Where y'at?"

"These people will not assimilate here," Mr. Searle said. "They put up with the crime in New Orleans, and now it's staring them in the face, but up here that's not going to be tolerated. People are going to handle it individually if they have to. This is the South. We will take care of it."

For a week Baton Rouge, the state capital, home of Louisiana State University and a place that sees itself as a less raucous cousin to what had been the kingdom of sin and merriment to its south, has been trying to come to terms with its sudden status as the state's most populous city.

"It's a new Baton Rouge we're living in, isn't it?" said Jeanine Smallwood of suburban Prairieville, in the middle of a 90-minute drive to work that should have taken 20.

Like many people in and near Baton Rouge, Mrs. Smallwood, her 1,700-square-foot house now sheltering 14 people, is trying to balance the need for compassion with the vertigo of a changed city. And so while she wishes all the evacuees well, she said she feared an influx of people from the housing projects of New Orleans, places, she has heard, where people walk around in T-shirts that read, "Kill the cops."

"Or so the story has it," she said. "Those aren't neighborhoods I go to."

She was so rattled, she said, she told her daughter she might have to move. On reflection, she said, there is little chance of that. Instead, she is hoping for the best.

"People are, what's the word? Not frustrated, not scared, it's more like their lives are on hold, everything's changed and we're trying to figure out what the new normal is going to be," Mrs. Smallwood said.

Many relief workers and volunteers say the worries over crime reflect more wholesale stereotyping of people fleeing a catastrophe than anything based in fact, but safety is a major issue. At the height of the post-storm panic last week, people waited in line for three and a half hours at Jim's Firearms, a giant gun and sporting goods store. Many were people from New Orleans with their own safety issues. But many were local residents jumpy about the newcomers from New Orleans and stocking up on Glock and Smith & Wesson handguns.

Jim Siegmund, a salesman at Jim's recently returned from military service in Iraq, said he did not think there was anything to worry about. Still, holding a cellphone in his hand and comparing it to a 9-millimeter handgun he said: "When push comes to shove, this won't protect you, but a Glock 9 will."

Joel Phillips, a 38-year-old contractor, said he had never owned a gun in his life, but after watching an angry argument at a gas station, he stood in line for three hours at Jim's to buy a 9-millimeter Ruger handgun and then went with a friend to a firing range over the weekend to learn how to use it.

"I have two daughters, I sometimes have to work in bad neighborhoods," Mr. Phillips said. "I probably don't need it, but I'll feel better knowing that I have some protection."

Many evacuees are staying with family or friends, their campers, S.U.V.'s and pickups parked on front lawns or circular driveways.

Most people at the broad array of shelters were dazed but appreciative of the help from local volunteers like the Louisiana State University students, upbeat and attentive, tending to sick and exhausted evacuees at the triage center on campus.

But others, particularly those at the main Red Cross shelter at the River Center convention center downtown, were seething with frustration, not just over the disaster they were fleeing, but from the sense that they were being treated not so much like guests as people being warehoused until they could be shipped elsewhere.

Patricia Perry, a postal employee from New Orleans, said anyone with a wristband from the River Center shelter was being stereotyped outside it as one of "those people" - looters, criminals, outcasts.

"It's like a stigma," she said. "All they really want to do is get us out of town. Well, I'm from Louisiana. I work hard. I pay my taxes. Surely, this state can find a place for us to live."

Still, many residents, with the sense of intimacy that remains so much a part of Southern life, took their role as hosts seriously, as if it would be bad manners, the ultimate sin in the South, to do otherwise.

So when Pam Robertson, manager of a convenience store, asked a customer how he was doing, it was not dutiful chatter but a real question that begged for a real answer.

When it came, she took the man's hand in hers over the counter and talked about her friend Hunter, evacuated from Loyola University, about her upbringing in the town of Henderson in the heart of Cajun country, about the grid of local streets here.

She greeted one and all with the same missionary zeal, as if the right words could somehow undo the disaster of the past week.

And when asked how she was doing, or even when they didn't, she replied: "I'm tired, but I'm hanging in. It's good. It's all good. God is good. We'll get through it."

    Amid One City's Welcome, a Tinge of Backlash, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07backlash.html

 

 

 

 

 

Water Returned to Lake Pontchartrain

Contains Toxic Material

 

September 7, 2005
The New York Times
By SEWELL CHAN
and ANDREW C. REVKIN

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 6 - While the human and economic toll of Hurricane Katrina continued to mount, New Orleans was beginning to pump back into Lake Pontchartrain the floodwaters that had inundated the city.

But this is not the same water that flooded the city. What started flowing back into the lake on Monday and continued spilling into it Tuesday is laced with raw sewage, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides and toxic chemicals, Louisiana officials said on Tuesday.

Whether or not the accelerating pumping of this brew from city streets into coastal waters poses a threat to the ecosystems and fisheries in the brackish bay remains to be seen, the officials said.

They added that they could do little more than keep testing and count on the restorative capacity of nature to break down or bury contaminants.

Though the state of the lake was a prime issue, it was just one of a host of problems identified in the storm-ravaged region on Tuesday by Louisiana and federal environmental officials.

For example, the officials said that although two large oil spills, from damaged storage tanks, were under control, thousands of other smaller spills continued to coat floodwaters in New Orleans with a rainbow sheen.

The first samples of the city's floodwaters were taken on Saturday by the Environmental Protection Agency, and results were expected later in the week, officials said.

"It's simply unfeasible" to try and hold the pumped water somewhere to filter out pollution, said Michael D. McDaniel, the Louisiana secretary of environmental quality.

"We have to get the water out of the city or the nightmare only gets worse," said Dr. McDaniel, who is a biologist. "We can't even get in to save people's lives. How can you put any filtration in place?"

Some scientists outside government tended to agree that the risk of long-term damage to the coastal waters was not high. One reason is that the lake is fed by several rivers and flushed by tides through its link to the Gulf of Mexico.

There will probably be an "initial toxic slug" entering the lake but that will be diluted and degraded by bacteria, said Frank T. Manheim, a former geochemist for the United States Geological Survey who teaches at George Mason University and was a co-author of a 2002 report on pollution issues in the lake.

"I think the lake has withstood has some big hits," he said, including an oxygen-sapping algae bloom after a 1997 flood.

He said that most of the long-lived industrial pollutants that can accumulate in organisms and work their way up the food chain have largely been phased out.

Overall, though, it was becoming evident that just the flooding of New Orleans had created environmental problems that could take years to resolve, state officials said.

Each of the estimated 140,000 to 160,000 homes that were submerged is a potential source of fuel, cleaners, pesticides and other potentially hazardous materials found in garages or under kitchen sinks, officials said.

The E.P.A. on Tuesday estimated that more than 200 sewage treatment plants in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were affected, with almost all of the plants around New Orleans knocked out of action.

Hundreds of small manufacturers or other businesses using chemicals or fuels, many with storage tanks held in place by gravity instead of bolts, are probably leaking various chemicals and oils, officials and independent experts said.

The E.P.A. and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint statement on Tuesday warning people that "every effort should be made to limit contact with floodwater because of potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous substances."

The statement urged anyone exposed to the water to wash thoroughly with soap and water and alert medical personnel about open cuts. "Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort," the statement said. Officials pointed to a short list of developments they called encouraging: the two largest known oil spills were declared under control, with one slick drifting out into the Gulf of Mexico and away from the state's ravaged coastline, where it will probably degrade over time.

As for the lake, "The wonderful thing about nature is its resilience," Dr. McDaniel said. "The bacterial contaminants will not last a long time in the lake. They actually die off pretty fast. The organic material will degrade with natural processes. Metals will probably fall and be captured in the sediments. Nature does a good job. It just takes awhile."

Kenneth Chang contributed reporting from New York for this article.

    Water Returned to Lake Pontchartrain Contains Toxic Material, NYT, 7.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/national/nationalspecial/07lake.html

 

 

 

 

 

Police Report

Progress in New Orleans

as City Is Drained

 

September 6, 2005
The New York Times
By SEWELL CHAN
and CHRISTINE HAUSER

 

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 6 - Louisiana officials today offered their first assessment of the ecological and environmental devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and the police said that search and rescue efforts were gaining ground as authorities tried to drain more water from the flooded city. With fires raging in some buildings and houses and the city in lockdown, the authorities said today that they have made 150 arrests this week as they tried to bring some order to the streets.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin reported that more citizens were evacuated from flooded buildings, delirious and dehydrated, many of them senior citizens who had no access to their medication.

President Bush and Congressional leaders vowed today to find out what went wrong in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana officials, commenting on the environmental aspects ofthe hurricane's aftermath, said that 140,000 to 160,000 homes had been submerged or destroyed; 60 to 90 million tons of solid waste must be cleaned up; and 530 sewage treatment plants were inoperable. They warned that it would take years to fully restore clean drinking water.

Two developments were encouraging: a pair of major oil spills were declared under control, with one of them drifting out into the Gulf of Mexico and away from the state's ravaged coastline, and 170 sources of radiation, ranging from hospitals to pipe-welding plants, have been secured, the officials said.

The overall picture presented by Michael D. McDaniel, the Louisiana secretary of environmental quality, consisted of untold hazards from nearly 7,000 underground storage tanks still submerged in water, widespread destruction of wildlife and degradation of the state's wetlands, marshes and coastline.

Dr. McDaniel, who is a biologist, acknowledged that the soupy basin that is New Orleans was filled with bacteria and other contaminants, but said the extent of biological and chemical hazards would not be clear under the federal Environmental Protection Agency completed laboratory tests.

"In addition to the oil and gasoline-type compounds, I expect we'll see some traces of truly toxic materials - things like pesticides, perhaps metals," he said. "We have homes with hazardous materials in them. We expect to see some nutrients obviously, as we flooded a lot of lawns and garden areas."

Scientists have already begun to warn that pumping billions of gallons of brackish water from New Orleans back into Lake Pontchartrain could have harmful long-term consequences.

Army engineers have patched up two levees that had been breached by the storm and cautiously continued today to pump water out of New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers began the pumping on Monday.

Dr. McDaniel agreed that the hazards were unknown, but said there were no alternatives. "We have to get the water out of the city or the nightmare only gets worse," he said. He added later, "We can't even get in to save people's lives. How can you put any filtration in place?"

In a telephone interview, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, John Hall, said that there was a pump operating at the 17th Street canal station, but that the station was operating at well below capacity out of concern for the fragility of the repairs to the flood-wall. "We can't pump very fast right now; it's a trickle," Mr. Hall said.

There was another pump operating at a station on the city's industrial canal. But authorities wanted to concentrate on the 17th Street station because it is the biggest pump station in the city.

"It might well be that we wanted to get the one that could do the most drainage work," he said. "If we can get this one operating, we've got the largest single piece of muscle in the entire New Orleans system."

Mr. Nagin, the mayor, said that the two pumps were starting to have a "significant impact" on the water levels. Instead of having 80 percent of the city under water, "I would estimate we have 60 percent of the city under water," he said.

Mr. Bush, still trying to counter the impression that his administration was late in reacting to the Gulf Coast calamity, said Vice President Dick Cheney would visit the region on Thursday to assess. The president sidestepped a question on whether he intended to replace anyone who has been responsible for the disaster response. "What I intend to do," Mr. Bush said, "is lead an investigation into what went right and what went wrong."

Mr. Bush comforted victims on Monday in Poplarville, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La., but he found himself ensnared in a dispute with Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who learned of Mr. Bush's trip from news reports.

The president's trip, an effort to calm the region and part of a major White House campaign to stem the political damage from the hurricane, came as rescue teams in New Orleans searched for thousands of residents who remained in the city, many having ignored pleas to evacuate.

Today, the city's No. 2 police official, W. J. Riley, said they were doing search and rescue in grids, and have covered about 75 percent of the city. But there are still people out there, some of whom can walk out in the three or four feet of water surrounding them but "for whatever reasons, some of them are still there," he said. "At this point we're not forcing anyone out of their homes."

He said the rescuers circulating in boats had not stocked up on food and water to supply provisions to those who wanted to stay. "If the Salvation Army can get it to them, we'll allow them to get it to them," he added.

As has been true for days, the death toll was assumed to be disastrously high, but estimates remained little more than guesses - perhaps educated, perhaps not. Officially, the Louisiana toll climbed to 71., said the figure might well reach 10,000.Army engineers said that after having dumped hundreds of bags filled with cement, sand and pieces of ruined roadways, they had closed the breach in the levee at the London Avenue Canal. Late Monday afternoon, state officials said that another crucial levee, on the 17th Street Canal, had also been patched up.

"With those barriers at least temporarily restored, engineers began draining the flooded streets and sending the water back into Lake Pontchartrain, but carefully, using portable pumps set up near the lake on the 17th Street canal. Gregory E. Breerwood, a city engineer, said, "We intend to take it slowly so we don't overtax the pumps themselves, because they have not been in service for a while."

On the environment impact, Dr. McDaniel also said today that he believed the lake would eventually recover. "The bacterial contaminants will not last a long time in the lake," he said. "They actually die off pretty fast. The organic material will degrade with natural processes."

West of the city, in Metairie, residents were permitted to return on Monday, if only for a day, to salvage what they could from their flooded houses.

In Baton Rouge, Governor Blanco greeted Mr. Bush as he arrived, but only after her press se

The trip on Monday was Mr. Bush's third survey of the region in the past week. He was in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., on Friday, and he flew over the area in Air Force One as he returned from an extended vacation on Wednesday.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bush did not go to New Orleans Monday because he had visited it on Friday. On that visit, however, he did not go to the Superdome or the convention center, where tens of thousands of largely poor and black victims had been desperate for food and water for days, and some older evacuees had died in their wheelchairs. Mr. Bush did speak at the New Orleans airport and visit the repair work under way at the 17th Street Canal, where he met with workers, some of whom had lost their homes.

Mr. McClellan also said Mr. Bush steered clear of New Orleans Monday because he did not want to disrupt continuing relief efforts.

Social services officials in Louisiana have said that about 114,000 people had taken refuge in shelters stretching from West Virginia to Utah. The largest number, 54,000, remained in Louisiana, but almost as many were in Texas. Officials also said Monday that they had received 90,000 applications over the last three days for food stamps from hurricane victims. Typically, they said, they process 1,300 applications a day.

 

Sewell Chan reported from Baton Rouge, La. for this article, and Christine Hauser from New York.

Reporting was contributed by David Stout and Elisabeth Bumiller from Washington, Clyde Haberman from New York, Michael Luo from Baton Rouge, Campbell Robertson from Poplarville, Miss., and Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans.

    Police Report Progress in New Orleans as City Is Drained, NYT, 6.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/national/nationalspecial/06cnd-storm.html

 

 

 

 

 

Bush and Congress

Announce Inquiries

on Government Response

 

September 6, 2005
The Hew York Times
By DAVID STOUT
and CLYDE HABERMAN

 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - President Bush and Congressional leaders vowed today to find out what went wrong in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, with Mr. Bush declaring that "bureaucracy's not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people."

Mr. Bush, still trying to counter the impression that his administration was late in reacting to the Gulf Coast calamity, said Vice President Dick Cheney would visit the region on Thursday. "He will go down to assess our recovery efforts," Mr. Bush said at a cabinet meeting. "He will help me determine whether or not we're meeting these goals."

The president sidestepped a question on whether he intended to replace anyone who has been responsible for the disaster response. "What I intend to do," Mr. Bush said, "is lead an investigation into what went right and what went wrong."

"It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government and the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe," he said.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the chairwoman and the ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said hearings would be held. "Government at all levels failed," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the panel, who appeared with the ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

"It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years, and for which specific, dire warnings had been given for days," Senator Collins said.

Mr. Lieberman called the situation "a moment of national crisis."

"In some sense, not just the Gulf Coast was attacked but America's self-confidence in the aftermath of the way government responded to this crisis," he said. "And this is no time for politics."

"The obvious fact is that Hurricane Katrina was an enormously powerful and destructive act of nature," Mr. Lieberman said. "It certainly wasn't caused by any government. But governmental failures in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Katrina allowed much more human suffering and property destruction to occur than should have. That is the sad and stunning fact."

Senate leaders had said earlier that hearings would be held, so today's announcement by the leaders of the homeland security panel was not a surprise. It came as criticism over the federal response continued unabated and as members of Congress, just back from recess, began to consider hurricane-related legislation. Congress has already approved more than $10 billion in aid. Mr. Bush described that as "a down payment," and there was talk in the Capitol today of a second installment that might be several times bigger.

President Bush returned to the affected region on Monday, and Army engineers patched up two levees that had been breached by the storm and cautiously began pumping water out of New Orleans. Mr. Bush was to meet at the White House today with representatives from national voluntary and charitable groups, and this afternoon make a statement in the Rose Garden on efforts to help students and school districts displaced by Katrina.

Mr. Bush comforted victims on Monday in Poplarville, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La., but he found himself ensnared in a dispute with Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who learned of Mr. Bush's trip from news reports.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Mr. Bush told a group of mostly black victims at a makeshift shelter, the Bethany World Prayer Center, in Baton Rouge. He said that Americans' response to the disaster had been "amazing" and that "this country is going to be committed to doing what it takes to help people get back on their feet."

The president's trip, an effort to calm the region and part of a major White House campaign to stem the political damage from the hurricane, came as rescue teams in New Orleans searched for thousands of residents who remained in the city, many having ignored pleas to evacuate. The city's No. 2 police official, W. J. Riley, said his officers were trying to convince people that staying behind was pointless because "this city has been destroyed, completely destroyed."

As has been true for days, the death toll was assumed to be disastrously high, but estimates remained little more than guesses - perhaps educated, perhaps not. Officially, the Louisiana toll climbed to 71. The mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, said the figure might well reach 10,000.

But there was some positive news. Army engineers said that after having dumped hundreds of bags filled with cement, sand and pieces of ruined roadways, they had closed the breach in the levee at the London Avenue Canal.

Late Monday afternoon, state officials said that another crucial levee, on the 17th Street Canal, had also been patched up.

With those barriers at least temporarily restored, engineers began draining the flooded streets and sending the water back into Lake Pontchartrain, but carefully, using portable pumps set up near the lake on the 17th Street canal. Gregory E. Breerwood, a city engineer, said, "We intend to take it slowly so we don't overtax the pumps themselves, because they have not been in service for a while."

West of the city, in Metairie, residents were permitted to return, if only for a day, to salvage what they could from their flooded houses.

In Baton Rouge, Governor Blanco greeted Mr. Bush as he arrived, but only after her press secretary called to alert her at 6 a.m. as she waited on a plane to take off from Baton Rouge for Houston. The press secretary, Denise Bottcher, said in an interview that she had first learned that Mr. Bush would be in Baton Rouge from news reports late Sunday and early Monday, even though CNN had been reporting the president's trip to an unspecified location in Louisiana as early as Saturday.

"We're so busy, I can't sit down to watch TV," Ms. Bottcher said, adding. "Why should I get that news from CNN?"

Ms. Bottcher said she then called the White House Monday morning, "and they extended an invitation."

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said the White House reached out to Ms. Blanco's office on Sunday and made contact with her Monday morning.

Ms. Blanco and Mr. Bush have been at odds over the deployment of the National Guard in Louisiana, and both sides pointed fingers. On Friday night, Ms. Blanco refused to sign an agreement proposed by the White House to share control of National Guard forces in the state with federal authorities. "She would lose control when she had been in control from the very beginning," Ms. Bottcher said on Sunday.

The Times-Picayune, Louisiana's largest newspaper, published an open letter to Mr. Bush on Sunday that called for the firing of every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," said the newspaper, which endorsed Mr. Bush for president in 2000 but made no endorsement in 2004.

At the Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, the president's first stop of the day Monday, some evacuees from the hurricane ran up to meet with Mr. Bush, but many hung back and looked on. One of them, Mildred Brown, who had been at the shelter since Tuesday, told The Associated Press: "I'm not star-struck; I need answers. I'm not interested in hand-shaking. I'm not interested in photo ops. This is going to take a lot of money."

One evacuee from New Orleans, Richard Landres, a lumberyard worker, was more positive about Mr. Bush. "I think he's doing what he can do," Mr. Landres said, according to a White House pool report.

Mr. Bush was flanked as he spoke by Mayor Kip Holden of Baton Rouge and T. D. Jakes, a conservative African-American television evangelist with a megachurch in Dallas who has been courted by the White House as a partner in reaching out to the black vote.

"I want to thank my friend T. D. Jakes for rallying the armies of compassion to help somebody like the mayor," Mr. Bush said.

Later in Baton Rouge, Mr. Bush spoke for an hour and a half with Ms. Blanco and members of Louisiana's Congressional delegation in a meeting that Ms. Bottcher described as "very positive" and that other participants called blunt. The elected officials said Mr. Bush mostly listened.

Representative Bobby Jindal, a Republican who represents New Orleans, said afterward that while the tone of the meeting was polite, "there was a lot of frustration."

"It was not hostile," Mr. Jindal said. "It was honest."

The trip was Mr. Bush's third survey of the region in the past week. He was in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., on Friday, and he flew over the area in Air Force One as he returned from an extended vacation on Wednesday.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bush did not go to New Orleans Monday because he had visited it on Friday. On that visit, however, he did not go to the Superdome or the convention center, where tens of thousands of largely poor and black victims had been desperate for food and water for days, and some older evacuees had died in their wheelchairs. Mr. Bush did speak at the New Orleans airport and visit the repair work under way at the 17th Street Canal, where he met with workers, some of whom had lost their homes.

Mr. McClellan also said Mr. Bush steered clear of New Orleans Monday because he did not want to disrupt continuing relief efforts.

"Today, he wanted to visit citizens of New Orleans who have been evacuated and are in need of continued assistance, as well as volunteers who are helping them," Mr. McClellan said in an e-mail message.

Monday afternoon, Mr. Bush spoke at a community college to residents of Poplarville, a small town about 40 miles inland that was badly hit by tornadoes accompanying the hurricane, then took a walking tour of a suburban street. Branches and trees littered the sides of roads, and electricity was still out, with water coming back slowly, but the damage was nothing like the destruction Mr. Bush saw on Friday in Biloxi.

"Out of this despair is going to come a vibrant coast," Mr. Bush told the crowd at the Pearl River Community College. "I understand if you're saying to yourself, 'Well, it's hard for me to realize what George W. is saying because I've seen the rubble and I know what has happened to my neighbors.' But I'd like to come back down here in about two years and walk your streets and see how vital this part of the world is going to be."

Some residents said Mr. Bush's visit to Poplarville had lifted their spirits. "He said the worst was going to be over," said Dawn Stuit, 48, a real estate agent, who had spoken to the president on the street and said that he had kissed her cheek. She said she was feeling better Monday because her electricity would be restored soon. "I think the president visiting had something to do with the power coming back on," she said.

Other residents viewed the president's visit with anger. "If it takes them a week to figure out that people need food and water, maybe they need to step back and fire themselves," said Robert Duke, 43, waiting in a gas line in Poplarville. "Some of them need to go to jail over this."

In New Orleans, the city took a few slow steps on the arduous journey toward recovery. Power was even restored in some neighborhoods.

Mayor Nagin, who had raged against the federal government days ago for what he called its slow response to the crisis, struck a more positive tone, despite his estimate of the large number of dead. "We're making great progress now," he said on the "Today" program on NBC. "The momentum has picked up. I'm starting to see some critical tasks being completed."

After days of looting and reports of murders and rapes, the New Orleans police and military troops asserted control. "We continue in lockdown," said Mr. Riley, assistant police superintendent. "I feel the city is very secure," he said. "Chaos is moving to being organized chaos. It's better now."

A major issue, he said, is clearing the city of remaining residents to prepare for the cleanup. "Our officers are telling people there's absolutely no reason to stay," Mr. Riley said. "There are no homes to go to, there's no hotels."

Social services officials in Louisiana sai d Monday that about 114,000 people had taken refuge in shelters stretching from West Virginia to Utah. The largest number, 54,000, remained in Louisiana, but almost as many were in Texas. Officials also said that in the last three days they had received 90,000 applications for food stamps from hurricane victims. Typically, they said, they process 1,300 applications a day.

Long-term problems facing people along the Gulf of Mexico were raised by former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. As in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, they were asked by President Bush to help raise money for evacuees.

"Recovery is going to take years," former President Bush said in Houston as he and Mr. Clinton announced the creation of a new fund.

Mr. Clinton touched on the need to find jobs for people who had left their homes. "One of the things we have to ask is: What could we do to give incentives for people to get jobs where they have to relocate," he said. "A lot of these people will be out of their homes a year or more."

David Stout reported from Washington for this article and Clyde Haberman from New York. Reportingwas contributed by Elisabeth Bumiller from Washington, Michael Luo from Baton Rouge, La.,Campbell Robertson from Poplarville, Miss., and Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans.

    Bush and Congress Announce Inquiries on Government Response, NYT, 6.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/national/nationalspecial/06cnd-bush.html?hp

 

 

 

 

 

Bush resists

immediate probe

into Katrina response

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
1:15 PM ET
Reuters
By Steve Holland

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, facing demands for an investigation into what went wrong in the initial response to Hurricane Katrina, resisted any immediate probe on Tuesday into what has become the worst U.S. humanitarian crisis ever.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats have demanded formation of a commission similar to the one that investigated the September 11, 2001, attacks, to determine how federal, state and local authorities bungled the relief effort in the first days after the hurricane struck.

Much of the anger, some of it also from leading Republicans, has been directed at Bush for a slow federal response to a catastrophe that may have killed thousands in New Orleans and along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast.

Bush, after a Cabinet meeting devoted to the myriad challenges posed in the wake of the crisis, said he wanted to save lives and solve problems before assessing blame.

"I think one of the things that people want us to do is to play a blame game," Bush told reporters. "We've got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I'm interested (in) is helping save lives."

He said he would lead an investigation to find out what "went right and what went wrong" in order to improve coordination between federal, state and local authorities because of the possibility of future crises.

"It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe," Bush said.

"And the reason it's important is, is that we still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there's a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm. And so I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong," he added.

Continuing a string of visits to the region by top officials, Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to the disaster zone on Thursday, Bush said.

While calling some of the relief efforts unacceptable, Bush has not publicly singled out anyone for criticism although there has been some finger-pointing between state, federal and local authorities.

Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been the subject of particularly scathing attacks and there have been calls for him to resign.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi who lost his coastal home in the storm, said Brown's job is in jeopardy.

"If he doesn't solve a couple of problems that we've got right now he ain't going to be able to hold the job, because what I'm going to do to him ain't going to be pretty," Lott said on CBS.

Visiting the devastated Gulf Coast last week, Bush expressed confidence in the FEMA head, saying: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not go quite that far on Tuesday.

"The president is appreciative of the efforts of (Homeland Security) Secretary (Michael) Chertoff and our undersecretary and all of those at FEMA who have been working around the clock to save and sustain lives and we appreciate their efforts," he said.

Asked if Bush supported an investigative commission, McClellan replied: "The president wants to make sure that we take a look at what happened and how the response efforts were undertaken and we'll make sure there's a good thorough analysis done but now is the time to remain focused on the most important priorities and that is the people in need."

Bush expressed sympathy with the evacuees and essentially agreed with civil rights leader Jesse Jackson that the survivors should not be considered refugees.

Jackson has complained that some news organizations have referred to the storm survivors, many of them poor and black, as refugees.

"The people we're talking about are not refugees. They are Americans," Bush said while receiving an update on the contributions of volunteer and charity organizations.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Wilson)

    Bush resists immediate probe into Katrina response, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/NewsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T171543Z_01_MCC662050_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-BUSH-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utility Crews Help Turn Lights Back On

in Parts of the Gulf Region

NYT

6.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/business/06utility.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utility Crews Help Turn Lights Back On

in Parts of the Gulf Region

 

September 6, 2005
The New York Times
By BARNABY J. FEDER

 

JACKSON, Miss., Sept. 5 - Randall W. Helmick, the man whose job it is to get the lights back on in New Orleans and many other parts of Louisiana and southern Mississippi, had finally reached his limit.

So on Friday afternoon he ordered the televisions turned off in the temporary command center for Entergy, the power company for 1.1 million households and businesses that lost electricity in Hurricane Katrina. The news reports were not helping Mr. Helmick's 100-plus-member team concentrate on coordinating the efforts of thousands of repair workers scattered over hundreds of square miles.

"The focus of the news coverage was on the disaster in New Orleans, and it was depressing and distracting people," Mr. Helmick said. "There was nothing we could do to get the power on in New Orleans, and I saw it draining people's energy."

This week the TV's are back on, but so are many more lights - over half of Entergy's affected customers by Monday evening, mainly in places well away from New Orleans. And even in New Orleans itself, the company had restored some power by nightfall Monday, including to the Convention Center, the warehouse district and the docks where cruise ships tie up. Electricity was also flowing to some parts of the French Quarter, Harrah's Casino and a few hotels near Canal Street. Entergy sent its first work crews into the city on Sunday to see how much could be restored using equipment that had not been flooded and the underground part of the network, made to withstand flooding.

But no one should expect electricity soon elsewhere in New Orleans, said Mr. Helmick, who works behind a plain table adorned with a makeshift sign, "Storm Boss."

"It will be extremely slow going because the rest is underwater or reliant on overhead distribution lines that were heavily damaged," he said. "Now we face some key decisions on whether to focus more resources on the city or the surrounding areas."

Working from an Entergy training center in Jackson, 180 miles north of New Orleans, Mr. Helmick does not want or expect his colleagues to ignore the plight of the company's home city, where Entergy's 22-story headquarters building near the Superdome is a prominent landmark. After all, he and about 1,600 Entergy employees, normally based in or near New Orleans, had to evacuate - leaving homes, relocating families - the weekend before Hurricane Katrina struck. Mr. Helmick's family is now in Baton Rouge, La., but some of his colleagues have moved theirs as far away as Atlanta.

The best thing Entergy could do for New Orleans, Mr. Helmick said, was to restore service as quickly as possible to cities like Jackson and Baton Rouge that have been absorbing refugees. That recovery approach follows traditional utility practice: focus on restoring vital public services where possible and otherwise rebuild by expanding outward from the parts of the power grid still functioning.

Mr. Helmick says he thinks of himself as an air traffic controller rather than a field general. To restore Entergy's power grid as rapidly as possible, the efforts of its distribution companies in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas most be coordinated with the repair of transmission lines and substations.

The amount of power Entergy generates at its plants must be carefully balanced with the network's ability to deliver it. And the effort requires management of outside resources like the thousands of temporary repair workers from other utility companies or from contractors who specialize in disaster recovery.

Although bristling with phones and PC's, Mr. Helmick's improvised command center belies the years of thought and practice behind Entergy's response. Not only had the company rehearsed its hurricane plan in April, as it does every year, but it had specifically practiced for a storm landfall near New Orleans.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, the day before the storm bore down on New Orleans, more than half the employees in the city were told via e-mail and Web notices not to come to work on Monday and to take whatever steps were necessary to protect their families.

Most of the rest were told to leave the city but stay in touch. The core group of storm managers went to Jackson while other senior managers were dispatched to Baton Rouge and Little Rock, Ark.

But last spring's drills did not anticipate several realities, including the flooding in New Orleans, the civil unrest and the delays in obtaining thousands of workers from other companies, who were still repairing the damage Katrina had caused in Florida. At no time did the company dream it would become more than temporarily homeless itself, and have to determine what to do with thousands of displaced employees.

Last Sunday, Entergy acknowledged that it may be a corporate refugee for months and announced that J. Wayne Leonard, the chief executive, and other senior managers would establish temporary headquarters 10 miles west of here in Clinton, Miss. Entergy is moving to the posh campus that was the headquarters of the telecommunications giant WorldCom before it collapsed in an accounting scandal.

Mr. Leonard vowed to return eventually to New Orleans but said that he had no idea when that would be possible.

In some respects, Entergy has never performed better. As of Monday evening, the company had reconnected 575,000 customers - more than twice as many customers as it handled in July after a tropical storm, Cindy. The reconnected include vital oil refineries and nearly all of its major commercial customers north of New Orleans. But Katrina's impact was so much more extensive than its predecessors that more than 500,000 customers are still without power.

Those still without power include customers in rural areas where days of work may add only a few users, those too flooded to receive power and those like the refineries downriver from New Orleans where Entergy workers must traverse treacherous marshes.

Within New Orleans, where Entergy is also the natural gas utility, the company is just beginning the painstaking and potentially hazardous task of inspecting and repairing its gas distribution network. The system is functional but is likely to have developed potentially deadly leaks.

In Jackson, where 20 percent of Entergy customers still lack power, hundreds of maintenance crews converge each night on the sprawling parking lot around the Coliseum and the adjoining exhibition center.

Inside the exhibition hall, not far from where the Red Cross provides food and clothing to refugees, Entergy's caterer serves dinner for thousands. Buses ferry the workers to the hotels, church campgrounds and other facilities in which Entergy houses the repair crews. During the weekend, more than 100 men were sleeping on cots in abandoned office cubicles of the largely empty WorldCom campus.

Entergy has hired more than 10,000 workers from other utilities and contractors, all of whom must be trained to work on its network. So far, according to Entergy, the only serious casualty has been an employee of Air2, a contractor based in Timonium, Md., who was crushed last week while handling 75-foot transmission poles.

The workers often arrive in convoys, like the 47 repair vehicles from FirstEnergy, a utility holding company in Akron, Ohio, that pulled into the Coliseum parking lot Saturday. The group arrived from Florida, where it had spent nine days repairing storm damage.

Local Entergy officials like Haley Fisackerly have been scrambling for fuel and other resources required to keep the crews working. On Friday, Mr. Fisackerly learned that a local contractor had photocopied an Entergy letter, which authorizes fuel priority for the contractor's firm, and given it to family members to help them jump gas lines. That led to a hasty redesign of the authorization form to thwart such finagling.

The need to prevent theft once fuel has been acquired is one of many reasons Entergy has found itself requiring far more security workers than anticipated. "We're all running on adrenaline," said Mr. Fisackerly. "People realize there's a worse disaster farther south, so we are trying to fend for ourselves."

According to out-of-state repair workers, that awareness has also made Entergy's customers in this region some of the most grateful they have encountered. "One guy came out and said he wanted to give me a great big hug," said Randy Myers, a contract line repairman from Wyalusing, Pa. "That's not the reception we get on Long Island."

    Utility Crews Help Turn Lights Back On in Parts of the Gulf Region, NYT, 5.6.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/business/06utility.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Puts BellSouth's Adaptability to the Test

NYT

6.9.2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/business/06telecom.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Puts BellSouth's

Adaptability to the Test

 

September 6, 2005
Reuters
By KEN BELSON

 

GULFPORT, Miss., Sept. 3 - As Hurricane Katrina hit this coastal town with its full fury, C. B. Hales Jr., the director of BellSouth's facilities in the region, received a plea from one of the managers riding out the storm with him: Come upstairs immediately, the brick wall protecting the main generator was giving way.

Mr. Hales and eight colleagues, who had been hunkered down in the basement of the communications center, ran to the rooftop room. With winds of 130 miles an hour turning shingles, tin and wood into missiles, they furiously patched the wall with plastic tarps, plywood and a cardboard science project made by one worker's son.

"We grabbed what we could to protect the engine," Mr. Hales said, standing on the sun-baked roof several days later as workers stacked bricks and the generator roared. "If that generator failed, we'd have been toast."

With electricity out across much of the six counties in Mississippi that Mr. Hales' team covers, the generator now powers BellSouth's splintered telecommunications system in the coastal region. It keeps the computers, phones and other critical equipment at the central switching office here operating.

While crucial, the generator is just one piece of the complex puzzle that BellSouth needs to solve before it can fully restore its communications network.

It took three days for BellSouth, the main telecommunications company serving the storm-devastated region, to restore the crucial fiber lines that carry phone calls and data in and out of the area. Until then, Mr. Hales, his workers and residents nearby had little communication with the outside world.

"When we're not communicating, they're not communicating," said Roy Craig, an engineer who helped Mr. Hales save the generator.

After the storm passed on Wednesday, 1.75 million BellSouth customers had either spotty service or none, the company said.

Of that total, 750,000 were in the most damaged areas along the Mississippi coast and southern Louisiana, most of them without any access to communications.

[As of Monday, about 650,000 customers out of that original group had service restored, leaving 1.1 million still suffering. Only about 120,000 of the 590,000 BellSouth customers in the six-county Gulf Coast District had working service, the company said.]

The company said it expected repairs to take as much as six months in the most damaged areas.

Over all, BellSouth expects to spend at least $600 million to repair its network and restore service across the affected states. But Jeff Batcher, a company spokesman, warned that the estimate was made "without the opportunity to survey all the damage," suggesting the cost could rise further.

Service in the coastal region is particularly spotty, in part because some of the fiber lines so carefully spliced together were severed again by the removal of fallen trees and the repairing of power lines. The generators powering communications equipment have been running out of fuel, and BellSouth, like so many other companies, has struggled to find more for its generators and its trucks.

Company executives said that government officials even commandeered one of the company's tankers that was ferrying fuel to Mississippi.

Then there are the logistics of coordinating BellSouth employees. Hundreds of employees are homeless; about 200 are still unaccounted for. The company has set up a tent city on the outskirts of Gulfport that dozens of employees and their families now call home. BellSouth has established five more like it - three in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.

Mr. Hales, whose home near the beach was destroyed, and several other managers are sleeping on air mattresses in their offices. Even those whose homes still function are waiting in endless lines to get gas so they can report to work.

BellSouth, whose nine-state territory stretches from Florida in the east to Louisiana in the west and north to Kentucky, is no stranger to hurricanes. It has contingency plans and emergency response teams on standby. Many employees, including Mr. Hales, are veterans of hurricanes stretching back to Camille, which hit in 1969.

But Katrina was the worst ever. The company has had to abandon many of its operations in New Orleans and the immediate area, probably for months.

Conditions along the Mississippi coast, while ruinous, are at least tenable. The police kept potential looters at bay in the initial chaos and the streets have dried out, so essential work can be done. Hundreds of BellSouth two-worker teams have fanned out across the region to assess the damage.

A couple of switching stations near the border with Louisiana were destroyed. Other offices are standing, but the equipment was ruined. Machines that have since dried are likely to corrode in the coming weeks because salt water washed through them.

The damaged equipment pales besides other grim news workers are reporting. One team out to repair a damaged fiber optic cable came across six bodies.

The extent of the damage to the company's aerial and buried lines is far from clear. Surveyors like Jay Murphy, a 36-year veteran, are going street by street to inspect poles, lines and switch boxes. Mr. Murphy and his partner, Ellen Stephens, stood on a Biloxi side street where the power company had removed the electricity transformer from a pole where phone and electric cables dangled.

Mr. Murphy, whose own home was filled with mud - "It's like King Tut's tomb in there" - said a crew would have to restring a phone line 1,200 feet to the next service box. Not a hard task, he explained, but it cannot be done until "every foot of Biloxi" is examined to determine what needs to be fixed first.

On a map rolled out on his pickup truck, Mr. Murphy had traced red ink along the handful of streets he and Ms. Stephens covered that day. By his estimate, only one-eighth of the city had been inspected.

Managers are only just collating information about the extent of the damage to the company's network. Teams in districts from Mobile, Ala., in the east to Baton Rouge, La., in the west relay reports and, as they do, BellSouth undertakes a kind of telecommunications triage, pushing certain projects to the top of the list, like repairing lines to hospitals and fire stations.

Helping cellphone companies connect their towers to BellSouth's switching centers is another priority. To provide mobile phone service, cellphone providers route calls from their towers over local and long-distance networks to towers near those who will receive the call. Some of the towers in the region were swept away in the storm, while others lost connection with wider networks. Still others are running on backup power.

Not unexpectedly, BellSouth has been inundated with requests from federal and state agencies rushing to the region. For example, officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, asked BellSouth to install more than 1,000 phone lines in the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, a few blocks from the shore in Biloxi.

Engineers ran over to the building to inspect equipment. By the time they determined it was operable, FEMA had decided to move into the Imperial Palace casino and hotel farther inland. [On Sunday BellSouth installed 1,200 phone lines; FEMA wants 2,800 more.]

BellSouth is also racing to restore service to banks, which rely on data lines so they can clear paychecks for customers needing cash. For now, many banks are clearing transactions manually.

Apart from the highest priorities, BellSouth is working from the fringes of the damaged zone inward, fixing the easiest projects first. In Mobile, which sustained less damage than the Mississippi coast, Chris Henkin, a technician, was busy all week reattaching phone lines knocked down by wind and trees. Since Tuesday, he has started his rounds at 7 a.m. and finished around 9 p.m., completing about a dozen projects a day.

Like most BellSouth employees, he is now on a 13-day shift and will take only one day off before starting another shift.

Despite the ordeal, Mr. Henkin, who joined BellSouth after Hurricane Andrew hit southern Florida in 1992, says he has never been prouder of what he does, especially helping older people left alone during the storm and without family nearby.

"Now, the customers are saying, 'Thank you, thank you,' instead of, 'Why weren't you here yesterday?' " he said with a smile.

Mr. Henkin is about to get more help. BellSouth is mobilizing to bring in hundreds of current and former employees from outside the area. Before they arrive, though, it has to determine what areas need attention most. As important, BellSouth must find them transportation, food and accommodations, all in short supply.

Some will bunk in one of the circus-size tents BellSouth set up on a baseball field outside Gulfport. There, the company has set up 400 cots, toilets, showers, a makeshift cafeteria and a communications center where, on Saturday evening, the Internet connection went down because of another break in the fiber lines.

With hundreds of thousands of refugees in the region, keeping BellSouth's own workers and their families going is a huge task. Standing in a tent filled with pillows, diapers, donated clothing and other sundries, Karen Rhyne, who is coordinating efforts at "BellSouth City," said the company handed out "tons of tarps and coolers" to employees still living at home. Homeless employees and their families are moving in, many relying on interest-free loans that will be deducted from their paychecks later.

And Wayne Mayes, a project manager who arrived from Kentucky Aug. 30, has spent a frustrating week just trying to get suppliers on the phone.

"The biggest problem has been the communications," Mr. Mayes said. "All week long, we've been missing each other, back and forth, back and forth."

    Storm Puts BellSouth's Adaptability to the Test, NYT, 6.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/business/06telecom.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monte Wolverton

The Wolvertoon

Cagle

5.9.2005

http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/wolverton.asp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans floods recede,

political fight heats up

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
12:16 PM ET
Reuters
By Mark Egan
and Paul Simao

 

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Floodwaters that swamped New Orleans slowly receded on Tuesday after engineers plugged breaks in levees and pumped water to drain the historic city of the stagnant pool left by Hurricane Katrina.

Black smoke billowed across the sky from several building fires, the latest safety threat after Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast on August 29, possibly killing thousands of people.

Despite government pledges to finally begin collecting the dead floating in flooded streets and hidden away in devastated homes, the official death toll in Louisiana still stood at only 71.

In neighboring Mississippi, officials said 170 people were confirmed dead, but some said the toll could top 1,000 there.

More than a million people may have been driven from their homes -- many perhaps permanently -- with hundreds of thousands taking refuge in shelters, hotels and private homes across the country following one of America's worst natural disasters.

New Orleans, a historic city and longtime tourist mecca, has been largely abandoned by its residents, but the streets are increasingly filled with troops, police and news media.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday plugged a major gap in the levees that protect New Orleans from surrounding waters and began pumping out of the flooded city.

Flood levels in some areas were said to have dropped a foot by Tuesday morning, but the corps has said it will take weeks to dry the city out.

Firefighters said the flooding prevented them from getting to many fires that were breaking out in the city.

They said that because there was no electricity, people were using candles for light in the old, wooden buildings that make up many New Orleans neighborhoods.

"Of course we're using candles. What else we gonna do? We got no electricity," said Junior Jones, 71, whose house in central New Orleans was on fire.

He said he had not evacuated. "I'm sick, in a wheelchair. I could hardly walk. Where am I going to go?"

 

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

As the waters fall, rescuers are able to reach more and more buildings in the search for the living and the dead.

They went on foot, in boats and helicopters to get people who have been stuck in their homes for eight days.

National Guard helicopters dropped down into neighborhoods and waited for survivors to come to the choppers.

Once filled, the aircraft flew them to safety, then returned again and again to the same place until there were no people left to take away.

Security checkpoints were set up in many areas as order returned to what had been a scene of lawless chaos that shocked the nation and the world and touched off a political crisis for President George W. Bush.

Soldiers from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division marched through town in formations of 12 in what they said was a show of force to the criminal gangs that ran wild in the streets, looting and shooting, in the days after Katrina.

Bush made a second post-hurricane visit Monday to Louisiana, where he huddled with Gov. Kathleen Blanco and visited storm survivors in Mississippi.

His spokesman said the president did not visit the Superdome and convention center in New Orleans, scenes of death and despair for tens of thousands of evacuees, because he did not want to disrupt recovery efforts.

The New York Times said the Bush administration was orchestrating a campaign to deflect blame to state and local authorities, which White House communications director Dan Bartlett denied.

Blanco agreed, but said the federal government had responded poorly to the storm.

"The federal effort was just a little slow in coming. I can't understand why. Those are questions that are yet to be answered," she said on CNN.

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi who lost his coastal home in the storm, said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown's job is in jeopardy.

"If he doesn't solve a couple of problems that we've got right now he ain't going to be able to hold the job, because what I'm going to do to him ain't going to be pretty," Lott said on CBS.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada backed calls for a commission, like the one that examined the September 11, 2001, attacks, to study how the hurricane response went wrong.

Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish president, told the CBS "Early Show" there were people still at risk in his community.

"Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today," he said." "So I'm asking Congress please investigate this now.

"Take whatever idiot they have at the top, give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

U.S. oil prices fell on Tuesday as industrialized countries prepared to release oil from emergency stocks and some of the U.S. refineries began to resume operations.

 

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Baton Rouge, Adam Tanner
and Jason Webb in Houston)

    New Orleans floods recede, political fight heats up, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T161625Z_01_BAU471101_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-KATRINA-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Chappatte

Cartoons on World Affairs

Cagle

5.9.2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a million in US

still without power after Katrina

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
1:47 PM ET
Reuters

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 1 million electricity customers remained without electricity eight days after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to area utilities and the U.S. Department of Energy.

More than half the customers in Louisiana, or 588,000 homes and businesses, were still without power, while Mississippi had about 382,000 customers with no service.

Katrina made landfall in southern Florida as a Category 1 hurricane on August 25-26, then crashed ashore in Louisiana on August 29 as a Category 4 storm packing winds of 140 miles per hour. It left more than 4.5 million homes and businesses without power.

Entergy Corp., the hardest hit electric company, had about 462,000 customers out in Louisiana and 41,000 out in Mississippi.

Most of New Orleans, however, remained without power. Crews from Entergy started to return to the city over the weekend for the first time since the hurricane hit to assess the situation, according to a report by the DOE.

Entergy also reported extensive damage to its natural gas distribution system serving 147,000 customers in New Orleans. The company said it would have to shut off gas service to many parts of the city to repair the damage but preserve flows to the power generators running the pumps to get the water out of the flooded areas of the city.

Southern Co.'s Mississippi Power subsidiary had about 119,000 customers still without service. The company expects to restore power to all customers by September 11.

The utilities in Florida, which restored power to customers last week, continued to urge customers to conserve energy due to the tight but improving natural gas supplies used to fuel power generation facilities.

Entergy's subsidiaries own and operate about 30,000 MW of generating capacity, market energy commodities and transmit and distribute power to 2.6 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Southern's subsidiaries own and operate more than 39,000 MW of generating capacity and provide power to more than 4 million customers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

 

OIL RESTORATION EFFORTS

The Gulf Coast electric companies restored full power to the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, by Monday afternoon, according to pipeline officials. The pipeline is now at 100 percent of pumping capacity.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) has been operating at almost full capacity but Entergy has not yet restored power to the Clovelly storage facility. The LOOP expects to be at full capacity when Fourchon gets power, which should occur in about seven days, according to the DOE report.

Tankers are making crude deliveries to the LOOP, which is making deliveries to the Capline, a crude oil pipeline serving the Midwest. The Capline is running at over 80 percent of capacity, according to the DOE.

Three refineries with major damage in Louisiana remain without power, including facilities owned by ConocoPhillips in Belle Chasse, Exxon Mobil Corp. in Chalmette and Murphy Oil Corp. in Meraux.

All of the other refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi still shut due to the hurricane have access to power. Even with access to power, however, it will still take some refineries weeks to resume operations.

    About a million in US still without power after Katrina, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T174754Z_01_MCC655355_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-UTILITIES-KATRINA-OUTAGES-DC.XML

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Wright

The Palm Beach Post, FL

Cagle

31.8.2005

http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/donwright.asp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health workers

say they were ready for Katrina

 

Tue Sep 6, 2005
12:24 PM ET
Reuters
By Maggie Fox,
Health and Science Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal health workers deployed to Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina hit disputed criticisms that the government was not prepared to deal with disaster, saying their agencies, at least, were ready.

Teams started preparing days before the hurricane actually hit, gathering supplies, assigning doctors, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists and arranging the logistics needed for rescue and aid effort.

Victims, politicians and media have all criticized the federal government for a sluggish response to Katrina, which may have killed thousands along the Gulf coast and forced more than a million from their homes.

"The surgeon general canceled everybody's leave. We were sort of aware that this was going to be a critical need," said Capt. Mike Milner, New England regional health administrator for the uniformed U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) based in Boston and a member of the Health and Human Services Department's emergency response team.

Milner was sent to Alexandria, Louisiana, northwest of New Orleans, to help organize a 1,000-bed field medical shelter.

"I believe we had our act together," he said in a telephone interview. "We were building some teams already way before we saw the storm land."

But the medical teams had to wait for Katrina to actually hit before they knew where to go, and then they had to go where local and federal emergency management officials told them to.

No teams were sent into New Orleans itself, where refugees packed the Convention Center and Superdome stadium after levees broke and most of the city flooded.

 

HOTBEDS AND 12-HOUR SHIFTS

USPHS Capt. Charles McGarvey has been at an aid center set up at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with a 38-member team since just before Katrina hit last Monday.

"We have been pretty much at it ever since, with 12-hour shifts," he said. Another 82 officers have since arrived at the makeshift clinic at LSU's basketball stadium and auditorium.

They were not only caring for the acutely ill, but dipping into the Strategic National Stockpile of drugs to provide care for evacuees who had to leave behind their own medications and supplies.

"It's pretty rough down here," McGarvey said.

The staff, not only uniformed public health personnel but employees of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even the Indian Health Service, were themselves living like refugees.

"Half of my officers are at a tent city put up for them. Half are in the auxiliary basketball court in basement of this complex," he said. "Those officers are hotbedding," he said, referring to a military practice in which several people share a single bunk or cot by sleeping in shifts.

McGarvey said local residents have helped make things bearable by delivering home-cooked meals and pizza.

McGarvey said his operation was now expanding and would be sending medical staff to New Orleans to see to both immediate needs and set up for the long term.

"The issue in next couple of days is probably going to be to prevent the spread of diseases in that particular area," McGarvey said.

    Health workers say they were ready for Katrina, R, 6.9.2005, http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2005-09-06T162446Z_01_EIC658987_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-HEALTH-DC.XML
 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Mayor

Seeing 'Rays of Light'

 

The New York Times
September 6, 2005
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:22 p.m. ET

 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With a major levee break finally plugged, engineers struggled to pump out the flooded city Tuesday as authorities braced for the horrors the receding water is certain to reveal. ''It's going to be awful and it's going to wake the nation up again,'' the mayor warned.

Mayor Ray Nagin said after an aerial tour that about 60 percent of the city was under water, down from 80 percent during the darkest hours last week.

''We are starting to see some significant progress. I'm starting to see rays of light,'' he said.

Nagin said it would take three weeks to remove the water and another few weeks to clear the debris. It could also take up to eight weeks to get the electricity back on.

Still, he warned that what awaits authorities below the toxic muck would be gruesome. A day earlier, he said the death toll in New Orleans could reach 10,000.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, began sending paratroopers from the Army's storied 82nd Airborne Division to New Orleans to use small boats, including inflatable Zodiac craft, to launch a new search-and-rescue effort in flooded sections of the city.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, division commander, said about 5,000 paratroopers would be in place by Tuesday.

The Army Corps of Engineers began pumping the water out after closing a major gap in a key levee that burst during Hurricane Katrina and swamped 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city.

Efforts to evacuate holdouts were stepped up, with boat rescue crews and a caravan of law enforcement vehicles from around the country searching for people to rescue.

''In some cases, it's real easy. They're sitting on the porch with their bags packed,'' said Joe Youdell of the Kentucky Air National Guard. ''But some don't want to leave and we can't force them.''

Nagin warned: ''We have to convince them to leave. It's not safe here. There is toxic waste in the water and dead bodies and mosquitoes and gas. We are pumping about a million dollars' worth a gas a day in the air. Fires have been started and we don't have running water.''

Early Tuesday, fire broke out at a big house in the historic Garden District -- a neighborhood with lots of antebellum mansions. National Guardsmen cordoned off the area as firefighters battled the blaze by helicopter.

At the same time, the effort to get the evacuees back on their feet continued on several fronts.

Patrick Rhode, deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said evacuees would receive debit cards so that they could begin buying necessary personal items. He said the agency was going from shelter to shelter to make sure that evacuees received cards quickly and that the paperwork usually required would be reduced or eliminated.

''We're eliminating as much red tape as humanly possible,'' Rhode said on ABC's ''Good Morning America.''

The Air Force late Monday concluded its huge airlift of elderly and serious ill patients from New Orleans' major airport. A total of 9,788 patients and other evacuees were evacuated by air from the New Orleans area.

Local officials bitterly expressed frustration with the federal government's sluggish response as the tragedy unfolded.

''Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area. And bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today,'' Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, said on CBS' ''The Early Show.''

''So I'm asking Congress, please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot.''

In addition to help from other Louisiana and Alabama departments, a Canadian task force of firefighters and police arrived four days after the storm, St. Bernard Fire Chief Thomas Stone said.

''If you can get a Canadian team here in four days, U.S. teams should be here faster than that,'' Stone said. Pointing to two large oil refineries, ''When they're paying $5 to $6 a gallon for gas, they're going to realize what this place means to America.''

The frustrations were also felt along the Mississippi coast, where people who have chosen to stay or are stuck in demolished neighborhoods scavenge for necessities.

Some say they will stay to rebuild their communities. Others say they would leave if they could get a ride or a few gallons of gasoline. But all agree that -- with no water or power available, probably for months -- they need more help from the government just to survive.

''I have been all over the world. I've been in a lot of Third World countries where people were better off than the people here are right now,'' retired Air Force Capt. William Bissell said Monday. ''We've got 28 miles of coastline here that's absolutely destroyed, and the federal government, they're not here.''

The scope of the misery inflicted by Katrina was evident Monday as President Bush visited Baton Rouge and Poplarville, Miss., his second inspection tour by ground.

''Mississippi is a part of the future of this country and part of that future is to help you get back up on your feet,'' Bush told 200 local officials.

While in Louisiana, Bush tried to repair tattered relations with the state's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, while also praising relief workers. Blanco played down any tension.

''We'd like to stop the voices out there trying to create a divide. There is no divide,'' she said. ''Every leader in this nation wants to see this problem solved.''

Meanwhile, former Presidents Bush and Clinton got smiles, hugs and requests for autographs when they met with refugees from Hurricane Katrina -- but it was Bush's wife who got attention for some of her comments.

Barbara Bush, who accompanied the former presidents on a tour of the Astrodome complex Monday, said the relocation to Houston is ''working very well'' for some of the poor people forced out of New Orleans.

''What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality,'' she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program ''Marketplace.'' ''And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.''

The two ex-presidents, who teamed up during a fund-raising effort for victims of last year's Asian tsunami, announced the creation of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.

''We're most anxious to roll up our sleeves and get to work,'' said former President George H.W. Bush. ''It will take all of us working together to accomplish our goal. This job is too big for any one group.''

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt declared a public health emergency for Texas, saying it would speed up federal assistance to help almost 240,000 storm evacuees -- the most of any state.

In New Orleans, Deputy Police Superintendent W.J. Riley estimated that fewer than 10,000 people were left in the city. Some simply did not want to leave their homes, while others were hanging back to loot or commit other crimes, authorities said.

Nagin said the city had the authority to force residents to evacuate but didn't say if it was taking that step. He denied reports that the city will no longer hand out water to people who refuse to leave.

The leader of troops patrolling New Orleans declared the city largely free of the lawlessness that plagued it in the days following the hurricane. He lashed out at suggestions that search-and-rescue operations were being stymied by random gunfire and lawlessness.

''Go on the streets of New Orleans -- it's secure,'' Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore said to a reporter. ''Have you been to New Orleans? Did anybody accost you?''

In neighboring Jefferson Parish, some of its 460,000 residents got a chance to briefly see their flooded homes, and to scoop up soaked wedding pictures and other cherished mementos.

''I won't be getting inside today unless I get some scuba gear,'' said Jack Rabito, a 61-year-old bar owner whose one-story home had water lapping at the gutters.

Associated Press writers Melinda Deslatte and Robert Tanner contributed to this report.

    New Orleans Mayor Seeing 'Rays of Light', NYT, 6.9.2005,
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Hurricane-Katrina.html

 

 

 

 

 


Bush, Congress

to Investigate Response

 

September 6, 2005
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:20 p.m. ET

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush and Congress pledged separate investigations into the widely panned federal response to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday as Senate Democrats said the government's share of relief and recovery may top $150 billion.

''Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people,'' Bush said after meeting at the White House with his Cabinet on storm recovery efforts.

''Governments at all levels failed,'' Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said at the Capitol. She announced that the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee would hold hearings, adding, ''It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years, and for which specific, dire warnings had been given for days.''

Stung by criticism, Bush called congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting, their first since the hurricane spread death and destruction on a fearsome scope along the Gulf Coast and left much of New Orleans under several feet of floodwaters.

Congress formally returned from a five-week summer break during the day, signaling that the hurricane would take top billing on the agenda in the coming weeks.

The response ''needs to be first and foremost,'' said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., although he, like Bush, also stressed the GOP goal of confirming John Roberts as the next chief justice by the time the Supreme Court convenes on Oct. 3.

Congress approved $10.5 billion as an initial downpayment for hurricane relief last week, and Senate Democrats were consulting among themselves in advance of the White House meeting.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was possible Democrats would request as much as $50 billion as a next installment.

''I believe that the recovery and relief operations will cost up to and could exceed $150 billion. FEMA alone will likely require $100 billion in additional funding,'' Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement issued after he talked with relief officials and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. An aide to Reid, Rebecca Kirszner, added, ''Our priorities right now are targeted assistance for health care, housing and education.''

Apart from the investigation announced by Collins and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the Senate Energy Committee arranged hearings on gasoline prices. The hurricane disrupted oil production and distribution in the Gulf of Mexico, and gasoline prices that had already been rising spiked sharply last week in some areas of the country.

For his part, Bush told reporters he was sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast region on Thursday to help determine whether the government is doing all that it can.

The president has traveled to the storm-affected region twice since late last week.

''What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong,'' Bush said. ''We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm.''

But Bush said now is not the time to point fingers and he did not respond to calls for a commission to investigate the response.

''One of the things people want us to do here is play the blame game,'' he said. ''We got to solve problems. There will be ample time to figure out what went right and what went wrong.''

Bush was devoting most of his day to the recovery effort. After the Cabinet meeting, he was gathering with the congressional leaders, representatives of charitable organizations and with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to talk about assistance for displaced students and closed schools.

McClellan said the president also was increasing what he described as a sizable personal contribution to the Red Cross and also was sending money to the Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, Bush objected to references to displaced Americans as ''refugees.''

''The people we're talking about are not refugees,'' he said. ''They are Americans and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens.'' The president raised the subject during a meeting with service organizations that are helping with the relief effort.

In another development, the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division said that its paratroopers plan to use small boats, including inflatable Zodiac craft, to launch a new search-and-rescue effort in flooded areas of central New Orleans.

In a telephone interview from his operations center at New Orleans International Airport, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said his soldiers' top priority is finding, recovering and evacuating people who want to get out of the flooded city.

There has been heavy criticism of the government's response to the hurricane, and city and state officials. Bush did not respond directly when asked if anyone on his disaster response team should be replaced.

The president said that he and his Cabinet members were focused on planning in several areas of immediate need -- restoring basic services to affected areas, draining the water from New Orleans, removing debris, assessing public health and safety threats and housing for those displaced by the storm. He said it was important to get people's Social Security checks delivered to them.

Earlier, McClellan rejected suggestions that the poor, and particularly blacks, had been abandoned when New Orleans was evacuated.

''I think most Americans dismiss that and know that there's just no basis for making such suggestions,'' McClellan said.

    Bush, Congress to Investigate Response, NYT, 6.9.2005, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Katrina-Washington.html

 

 

 

 

 


Many Helping Hands Offered

to Louisiana Orchestra's Players

 

September 6, 2005
The New York