Many Thousands Gone

The first disaster was the hurricane. The second was the federal government's response.

2) Where and how will refugees be settled after the immediate evacuation crisis of the first week or so? Authorities are saying no one will be able to return for months, but the more salient fact is that a staggering number will have no means to "rebuild" and no reason to come back at all.

3) How many people died in the four or five days between the levees' collapse and the arrival of supplies and evacuation buses, as a consequence of the U.S. government's inaction?

4) How exactly did federal and state disaster preparedness systems devolve to the point witnessed in New Orleans last week? And when can we expect congressional hearings on the subject to begin?

Hurricane survivors pass a body on the sidewalk outside New Orleans Convention Center
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Hurricane survivors pass a body on the sidewalk outside New Orleans Convention Center

5) What is in the water trapped inside the New Orleans basin? What sorts of chemical and biological toxins, and in what concentration? This bears most directly on the health of the people still trapped there, but also on the cost of cleaning the site after it's drained, and the potential enviro/health risks of living there in the future.

6) Speaking of draining New Orleans, where do they propose to pump the water once they're finally able to do so, and what will be the environmental and epidemiological consequences of putting it there?

7) How much of New Orleans's urban infrastructure--buildings, water systems, sewer and septic systems--is intact, or even repairable, at this point?

8) If the answer to question 7 is "little if any," does it make sense to build another city on that site?


What the parish president said

The concluding portion of Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard's appearance on Meet the Press Sunday--the part where he's sobbing uncontrollably--has been played over and over on television. But Broussard had a lot more to say, including some FEMA horror stories from the previous week. Here's a partial transcript:


"We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership....

"Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, 'Come get the fuel right away.' When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. 'FEMA says don't give you the fuel.' Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, 'No one is getting near these lines.'...

"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."

--Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, Sunday, Meet the Press

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