Thursday, September 01, 2005The situation in New Orleans appears to be growing truly desperate; an on-the-scene account from CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve (available on the CNN blog) does a good job describing the extremity of the disaster:
I truly believe that apart from 9/11 this is one of the most significant events that has ever hit this country. Anybody who tells you this disaster is going to be rectified in a matter of months hasn't seen the situation.We've been holding our collective breaths expecting the next great American disaster to be man-made. Will it be an airliner crash? Gasoline trucks crashed into targets? Or perhaps biological agents or a "dirty bomb"? As Hurricane Katrina amply demonstrated, Mother Nature seems to have a terrorist streak at heart, too. [BoingBoing reports that Google maps will have extensive new flyover and satellite images of the Gulft Coast damage region available soon.]
People are carrying their children, trying to get them to safety. A woman coming down to the police, close to hysterics, saying, "My elderly mother is in a building over there, she needs dialysis. She can't get it. She is dying. Can you help me?"
And the police had to say, "There is absolutely nothing we can do. We don't have a precinct house. We don't have communication. There is absolutely nothing we can do for you." That was amazing to me.
The other thing that struck me was the looting. The police were standing in the middle of the street and right in front of them stores were being ransacked. And they didn't even make an effort to stop it. I don't think they could, under the circumstances.
They were totally outnumbered. They couldn't call for any reinforcements. And frankly, the priority now isn't property. The priority has to be people and people's lives. The police are there protectively, I think, in case things escalate even further. But they are powerless. They're powerless in this situation.