TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Flood Relief Efforts - Unfair Criticism?

Flood Relief Efforts - Unfair Criticism?
3 Sep 2005 20:10:35 -0700

There's been a great deal of criticism of the response of
'government', especially the Federal level, to help the flood victims.
If one takes a step back and looks at the big picture, one wonders if
the criticism is justified. Perhaps the emotional pictures of people
suffering are skewing emotions. Perhaps old fashioned politics is
playing a role.

There's no doubt that this is a major disaster and people are
suffering horribly. Even Bush says so.

There's no doubt a thorough and impartial review of what happened when
is required.

But for now, let's take a look at the logistics and communications.

What troubles me is that many of the critical internet posts and
editorials and clearly political in nature, that is, writers
previously disliked Bush and are fishing for more reasons. Any
writing that mentions Iraq, 'uncaring government' (like David Brooks
of the NYT did), past funding, were obviously badly biased. A lot of
people don't like Bush or Iraq, but that does not necessarily mean the
response now is bad.

I can't help but wonder if TV's constant views of human suffering tugs
on emotions and not logic. I wonder if there should be more shots
showing how difficult it is to transport supplies in a flooded area
where roads and communications are down. I understand the Army has
been trying to repair the broken flood dikes all along but there were
very few TV pictures of that work. Maybe TV scenes of sandbags aren't
as 'grabbing' as people suffering, but it IS a big part of the story
and I think more should've been featured on the news.

When I mentioned my concerns to people, they responded, "well, just
look at TV!". Our news from TV is very selective. TV is not always
objective because it must always be interesting to hold the viewer's
interest. No viewers, no reason to exist.

I've seen flooded areas and was impressed at the enormous amounts of
police / fire /resuce / cleanup services required. These areas were
far smaller in size -- a couple of square miles -- with only about 500
affected people. Helping 500 people is a lot easier than helping
100,000 people. That means multiplying a massive expensive effort 200

My biggest question is the daunting logistics of caring for many
THOUSANDS of people, perhaps a full 100,000 people. It does appear
that a great many people -- for whatever reason -- could not or would
not evacuate the city and were left behind. Obviously some water was
getting to them otherwise they would have died by Wednesday. With
most roads cut off and poor communiations, how does one get water for
100,000 people into a destroyed city and then distributed, in an
orderly fashion, to those who need it? What about food and medicine?
Where do these supplies come from? Where will the delivery trucks
come from? Who organizes and dispatches the effort?

Another issue is the time delay. In other floods, the water recedes
after a few days allowing transport to resume and cleanup to begin.
So, emergency supplies are only needed for a few days. But, New
Orleans won't dry out for some time so supplies for many more days is
needed. Again, where will these come from and get distributed?

Likewise with evacuation. In the flooding I've seen, they've opened
schools on higher ground which can accomodate 500 people and usually
still have power. Where do you put 100,000 people when a whole area
is devastated and there's no place to go? Who has 100,000 cots just
waiting around nearby? How will people get to the emergency centers,
especially if they're located many miles away and roads are blocked?
One newscaster said they should've used army trucks.

Think about it. A bus holds 50 people. You'd need 2,000 buses to
move 100,000 people. Suppose a bus can make 4 trips during the
evacuation, so you only need 500 buses. Who's got 500 buses, fuel for
them, and drivers, all just sitting around ready for use on the first
day? An army truck, as some newscasters suggested, holds even less
people. Do they have 500 trucks, fuel, and drivers just sitting
around close to New Orleans?

I don't know what the people did who got trapped in the city. The
first question is why they could not or would not leave as directed;
but obviously providing transport and shelter for so many people
before the storm on short notice would've been terribly difficult.

I don't know what the city and state emergency plans were. The city
and state have primary responsibility in this situation. I don't know
when the recognized the magnitude of the disaster and what their
responses were. When did they call in the feds and what did they ask
for? (Local officials have to make the call to the feds.) I wonder
how many Louisanna State Police and local police from other La. towns
were brought in as soon as the flooding started. Who was in charge of
operations in the city?

In looking over the logistics -- many thousands of people needing help
NOW! -- I wonder if our expectations of government miracles are too
high. We're used to instant gratification from the Internet and TV.
But maybe in the real world things work a little differently.

[public replies only, please]

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa makes some very good points. I do
not intend to kick those people while they are down, but there _was_ a
lot of politics involved as well. An alternative point of view is also
presented in this issue of the Digest, from Miss Betty Bowers who is
frequently known as "America's Best and Most Fabulous Christian". Ms.
Bower's commentary appears in the final spot in this issue, a place
which is usually reserved for the Last Laugh. PAT]

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