Katrina: New Orleans Must be Abandoned for Nine Months
The British tabloid Independent reports that the U.S. federal government estimates New Orleans will be will have to be “abandoned for at least nine months” because of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleans will have to be abandoned for at least nine months, and many of its people will remain homeless for up to two years, the US government believes. The bleak assessment will deepen the biggest crisis faced by President George Bush, who last week called the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a ” temporary disruption”. As the relief effort finally got under way yesterday for the tens of thousands of people left without food, water, medicines or the rule of law for five days, the federal official in charge of disaster recovery told foreign diplomats that reconstruction cannot begin until next summer.
While I’m always dubious of initial estimates on these things, the recovery timeline does not strike me as implausible. One would think finding temporary shelters–likely permanent in many cases–for the displaced would happen much more quickly, though.
Not surprisingly given the source, the rest of the piece criticizes the Bush administration.
The President is now facing a political hurricane of his own, with gathering criticism, even from inside his own party, for failing to heed warnings of the city’s vulnerability, cutting spending on its defences to pay for the wars on terror and in Iraq, and responding sluggishly to the worst natural catastrophe ever to hit his country. Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans, said that every day of delay has caused hundreds of deaths. Louisiana’s junior Senator, Republican David Vitter, gave the Bush administration “an F grade” for its handling of the crisis. Senator Chuck Hagel, a leading contender for his party’s nomination to succeed Mr Bush, said, “There must be some accountability.”
The criticism is all the sharper because the President did nothing to alter his holiday schedule for 48 hours. Vice-President Dick Cheney remains on holiday in Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, returned to Washington after being seen shopping for $7,000 shoes in Manhattan as New Orleans went under.
The symbolism is important, I suppose, but no one doubts that the president was as engaged in the crisis while away from Washington as he would have been sitting in the Oval Office. And, while I hope Rice was just window shopping–she seems too smart to spend that kind of money on shoes–the role of the Secretary of State in disaster relief is tangential at best.