Katrina: New Orleans Mayor Orders Forced Evacuation
More than a week after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has ordered a forced evacuation.
To the estimated 10,000 residents still believed to be holed up in this ruined city, the mayor had a blunt new warning: Get out now Ã¢€” or risk being taken out by force. As floodwaters began to slowly recede with the city’s first pumps returning to operation, Mayor C. Ray Nagin authorized law enforcement officers and the U.S. military to force the evacuation of all residents who refuse to heed orders to leave. Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said that forced removal of citizens had not yet begun. “That’s an absolute last resort,” he said.
Nagin’s order targets those still in the city unless they have been designated as helping with the relief effort. Repeated calls to Nagin’s spokeswoman, Tami Frazier, seeking comment were not returned.
The move Ã¢€” which supersedes an earlier, milder order to evacuate made before Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore Aug. 29 Ã¢€” comes after rescuers scouring New Orleans found hundreds of people willing to defy repeated urgings to get out. They included people like Dennis Rizzuto, 38, who said he had plenty of water, food to last a month and a generator powering his home. He and his family were offered a boat ride to safety, but he declined. “They’re going to have to drag me,” Rizzuto said.
That’s a sentiment Capt. Scott Powell, of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, has heard before as he tries to evacuate people by air boat. “A lot of people don’t want to leave. They’ve got dogs and they just want to stay with their homes. They say they’re going to stay until the water goes down,” he said.
Unless Rizzuto is hindering the recovery effort in some way, he has every right to stay in his home and take what seems a perfectly reasonable calculated risk at this stage of the game. And, frankly, if the mayor has the power to force people to leave, he should have exercised it before the storm hit, when it would have saved a few thousand lives.
Update: Don Sensing takes a look at the timeline of events and concludes that Nagin probably could not have reasonably issued an evacuation order in time to get everyone out.
Even had Nagin called for immediate evacuation early Saturday morning, I donÃ¢€™t think more people could have or would have left unless the city took active steps to make it happen. Thousands of people could have been been convoyed out using the buses. That they were not is fairly laid at Ray NaginÃ¢€™s feet, it seems to me. If a plan to do so had been in place, an early Saturday evacuation order would have made an immeasurable difference in reducing the suffering. That nothing was done was, IMO, inexcusable Ã¢€“ the Nagin administration had been through hurricane evacuations before and knew that people would be stranded. . . .
So, more people could have been evacuated with more decisive action but not everyone. And, of course, had he ordered the evacuation and the storm taken a different path, the city would have faced countless lawuits.