Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans and Biloxi

New Orleans is 80% flooded from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Biloxi, Mississippi is 90%. Such devastation is hard to comprehend, yet it seems at the same time closer to home when it happens on our shores. If the tsunami in Southeast Asia seemed distant to Americans, the flood on the Gulf seems near, and it's hard to imagine an American city resembling, as CNN says, a "war zone" to the extent New Orleans now does. An editorial from the Times:
Disaster has, as it almost always does, called up American generosity and instances of heroism. Young people helped the old onto rafts in flooded New Orleans streets, and exhausted rescue workers refused all offers of rest, while people as far away as Kansas and Arizona went online to offer shelter in their homes to the refugees. It was also a reminder of how much we rely on government to imagine the unimaginable and plan for the worst. As the levees of Lake Pontchartrain gave way, flooding New Orleans, it seemed pretty clear that in this case, government did not live up to the job.

But this seems like the wrong moment to dwell on fault-finding, or even to point out that it took what may become the worst natural disaster in American history to pry President Bush out of his vacation. All the focus now must be on rescuing the survivors. Beyond that lies a long and painful recovery, which must begin with a national vow to help all the storm victims and to save and repair New Orleans.

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