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 a ‘ghost town’ for 9 months

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.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stormy70 says:

    There are 14,000 empty apartments being readied for the evacuees in Texas. Also, our church is outfitting 60 apartments for families. Lots of apartment complex owners are donating apartments to house people. I think quite a few will never go back.

  2. John Burgess says:

    Small correction: The Independent isn’t a tabloid. It’s a broadsheet, i.e., full-sized paper.

    The paper, host to such stellar journalists as Robert Fisk, is only slightly more centric than The Guardian.

  3. cirby says:

    I think they’re going to figure out pretty quickly that New Orleans can’t be completely empty for that long.

    The parts of the town that were relatively unaffected will need to be up and running, fast, so the recovery will have a base of operations. It’s going to take tens of thousands of people to even get a start on things, and they have to stay somewhere.

    Let’s assume 85% of the city is currently under water. That means that there’s still living space for a couple of hundred thousand folks in the dry areas.

    At the very least, the folks who have places that were relatively untouched will want to move back home.

  4. Bill Anderson says:

    The Democratic ticket of Richardson/Landrieu just got a 5% boost. Such a ticket will absolutely force Republicans to put another Texan at the top of the ticket – so long for any hopes McCain may have had.

    The Bush Administration is only a war-time group since Powell left. Shame, too, for not all of their policies are disastrous.

  5. Homeless Guy says:

    There are actually people (many home owners, some trouble makers are just wanting to keep chaos running rampant) that are not wanting to leave NewOrleans, wonder how clean up will take place with people wandering around, will it take longer if people don’t leave N.O.?