Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Orleans disaster II

It appears that the disaster in New Orleans has just been a massive waste of human life that should have been avoided. It amazes me, that with so many predictions of a potentially devastating flood that nobody in American political positions paid it any attention. The response to the disaster borders on plain pathetic, with very few of the American agencies seemingly having any clue what to do and appeared to have run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Now even the flood water itself will become a hazard, harbouring numerous diseases and making further rescue efforts even more dangerous.

An editorial in the recent issue of Nature gives a good overall summary of the whole mess:
Knowledge of the risk of a storm-induced flood in New Orleans has been widespread in the scientific community for years, and researchers have sought to improve our understanding of it. Much of this work has taken into account stubborn facts such as the propensity of the poor, the elderly and the sick to ignore evacuation orders.

There seems to be a disconnect, however, between the process that identifies such risks and the people who make the decisions that might manage them. There are indications that many senior politicians — not just President Bush — were simply unaware that the New Orleans flood risk even existed.
If in the aftermath of this disaster heads in certain administrative positions do not roll I will be sorely disappointed. Many people died that shouldn't have, if only a fraction of the total monetary cost of the damages had been spent a few years earlier to upgrade levees and other systems that were sorely understregth.