Dante’s Inferno

The bathrooms, clogged and overflowing since Monday, announced the second level of hell, the walkway ringing the entrance level. In the men’s, the urinal troughs were overflowing. In the women’s, the bowls were to the brim. A slime of excrement and urine made the walkway slick. “You don’t even go there anymore,” said Dee Ford, 37, who was pushed in a wading pool from her flooded house to the shelter. “You just go somewhere in a corner where you can. In the dark, you are going to step in poo anyway.”

Water and electricity both failed Monday, and three pumps to pressurize plumbing have been no match “when the lake just keeps pushing it back at us,” said Maj. Ed Bush, the chief public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.

“With no hand-washing, and all the excrement,” said Sgt. Debra Williams, who was staffing the infirmary in the adjacent sports arena, “you have about four days until dysentery sets in. And it’s been four days today.”

Bottled water was too precious to use for washing; adults get two bottles a day. Food, mostly Meals Ready-to-Eat, is dispensed in a different line. Many refugees told of waiting in line for hours only to be told no food was left.

…Walking about the perimeter of the Superdome, in brilliant sunshine and blistering heat, [Major Ed] Bush could take no more than a few steps before angry and pleading residents clutched at him. An elderly woman could not get her thyroid medicine; another needed dialysis. A 3-week-old baby, clad only in a diaper, lay listless in her young mother’s arm. She had a fever.

…The president and the governor both asserted Wednesday that everyone would be moving to a spiffier football stadium. But although Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had announced at 11 a.m. a plan to evacuate the Superdome to Houston’s Astrodome, Maj. Bush had received no information through mid-afternoon. By his estimate about 15,000 people remained in the Superdome, and more straggled in through the day, either wading in on foot or dropped off by a helicopter rescue effort that so far has plucked 3,000 people from the roofs of flooded homes.

…”This is mass chaos,” said Sgt. Jason Defess, 27, a National Guard military policeman who had been stationed on a ramp outside the Superdome since Monday. “To tell you the truth, I’d rather be in Iraq,” where he was deployed for 14 months, until January. “You got your constant danger, but I had something to protect myself. [And] three meals a day. Communications. A plan. Here, they had no plan.”

‘And Now We Are in Hell’, Washington Post

At least seven bodies were scattered outside the convention center, a makeshift staging area for those rescued from rooftops, attics and highways. The sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

…”We’ve got people dying out here — two babies have died, a woman died, a man died,” said Helen Cheek. “We haven’t had no food, we haven’t had no water, we haven’t had nothing. They just brought us here and dropped us.”

Tourist Debbie Durso of Washington, Mich., said she asked a police officer for assistance and his response was, “‘Go to hell — it’s every man for himself.'”

“This is just insanity,” she said. “We have no food, no water … all these trucks and buses go by and they do nothing but wave.”

New Orleans in Anarchy With Fights, Rapes, San Francisco Chronicle

How? How? HOW can this be? We are a world superpower with well-developed technology and the best-equipped military, yet we can’t deploy these effectively in the service of rescuing our own citizens? I realize the city is a fishbowl of water, but criminey, we have rugged machines built to withstand that and more. They need to send more equipment. More guardsmen or troops should be stationed there to restore some order and move people. And how can it be that the vulnerable, the immobile, who need special transport by helicopter, are abandoned while able-bodied people are allowed to get on buses? It’s said that communications are spotty. Yet our military possesses the ability to communicate in primitive conditions. Why aren’t these in use?

The mayor and governor are trying to cope and are doing the best they can, but this is not enough. While this is an unprecedented disaster, plans should have been in place to handle it, and assistance should have been mobilized more quickly two days ago. Even the best-laid plans may not be perfect, but at least they would exist and provide a starting point. Seems that there weren’t any at all.

I am truly appalled. I grieve. I cannot personally go in there and help, so I’m doing my part with donations. (Writing about it is a coping method, and the questions I pose are rhetorical. I’m not looking for discussion, which is why the comments are absent for this post.)

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