Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 2:06 am
Latest:
Sept. 16, 2005

Government falters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief
Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana two weeks ago, leaving roughly 80 percent of the city underwater and thousands of helpless residents stranded on their rooftops waiting for government rescue. Where was the government? Instead of responding immediately with all available resources, the government was hog-tied while congressmen and lawyers in Washington D.C. argued for days over the legitimacy of relief efforts. Although rescue workers eventually were able to evacuate and transport the majority of the residents to safety, the government response took its toll, resulting in unnecessary sickness and death. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency in charge of handling disaster relief efforts, should look back on Hurricane Katrina as a reminder to never hesitate or ignore the threats of a natural disaster in the future.

The government was initially confused when reports of Hurricane Katrina's damage arrived in Washington D.C. For days, FEMA stalled, failing to initiate massive relief efforts. There are a few explanations behind the inexcusable slow response to the disaster. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes FEMA, is too focused on preparing for more unlikely attacks of biochemical terrorism than natural disasters. FEMA faltered under former head Michael Brown, who lacked any leading ability in face of these disastrous events.

President Bush appointed Brown as the head of FEMA, along with two other top FEMA officials, in 2003. Coincidently, all three had political ties to the President Bush's campaign and possessed no experience with disaster control, according to The Washington Post. Only a few days after Hurricane Katrina's impact, President Bush removed Brown from overseeing relief efforts in New Orleans. Yesterday, Brown resigned, which is the most responsible thing he could have done to prevent future problems in dealing with national emergencies. His resignation is a move in the right direction to improve the nation's response plan, although many problems in the plan still exist.

Another inexcusable problem with the government's disaster response is that the Bush administration was well aware of the imminent danger hurricanes posed to New Orleans. Situated below sea level, the Gulf Coast wetlands are rapidly disappearing, augmenting the threat of floods. Months earlier, President Bush had cut funding for improving deteriorating levees by two thirds. These levees play a critical role in protecting the city by preventing massive flooding. However, because of the Bush administration's preoccupation with the Iraqi war, the old levee system was the city's only defenses against rising waters.

Although only a few residents stayed behind in New Orleans, the government still has much to do. Medical disasters caused by waterborne diseases and crowded shelters will affect the hundreds of citizens and require the government's undivided attention. Aside from health problems, New Orleans must now focus on pumping out the diseased water out and resurrecting the city. The government is now faced with a daunting and costly task, with estimates reaching as high as $200 billion, almost rivaling the $300 billion required for the War in Iraq.

Regardless of how ineffectively FEMA initially handled the situation the government's slow response has been inexcusable. While Hurricane Katrina destroyed homes and ravaged New Orleans, it also exposed important problems with the nation's disaster response plans. The government, especially FEMA, has no place for inexperienced or hesitant leading personnel in future emergencies.



Share on Tumblr

Discuss this Article

Silver Chips Online invites you to share your thoughts about this article. Please use this forum to further discussion of the story topic and refrain from personal attacks and offensive language. SCO reserves the right to deny any comment. No comments that include hyperlinks will be posted. If you have a question for us, please include your email address or use this form.
 

  • Jon Brookstone on September 16, 2005 at 8:10 PM
    Nice Job Merlyn. Really well put. Kind of outrageous that the person who Bush chose to head the national organization for responding to major disasters was the head of a Middle Eastern Camel racing organization. Nice job to learn where to deal with Cat. 4 hurricanes - as a camel jocky funder. Good Grief
  • Anarchist on September 17, 2005 at 12:00 PM
    Hmm... I can't wait for the people who say: "The government bureaucracy responded to a major problem requiring swift, decisive action in a wishy-washy, inefficient, and incompetent manner. What's the solution to this problem? Give the government more money and power!"
  • Ravi on September 17, 2005 at 2:47 PM
    This is a thorough, well-written article, but I have two problems with it:

    1) It makes no mention of the governor of Louisiana, who was responsible for much of the delay, quibbling over federal-state boundaries.

    2) The following paragraph:

    "Another inexcusable problem with the government's disaster response is that the Bush administration, was well aware of the imminent danger hurricanes posed to New Orleans. Situated below sea level, it is common knowledge that the Gulf Coast wetlands are rapidly disappearing, augmenting the threat of floods. Months earlier, President Bush had cut funding for improving deteriorating levees by two thirds. These levees play a critical role in protecting the city by preventing massive flooding. However, because of the Bush administration's preoccupation with the Iraqi war, the old levee system was the city's only defenses against rising waters. "

    New Orleans has been situated below sea-level since it was built. Neither the Bush administration nor any other administration would have done anything about it, regardless of the War in Iraq. Yes, it was a disaster waiting to happen, but it's been a disaster waiting to happen for hundreds of years.

    Furthermore, the levees were not responsible for the flooding; the flood walls were.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on September 18, 2005 at 9:50 PM
    "What's the solution to this problem? Give the government more money and power!"

    Nothing has the resources of government in terms of the capability to send widespread aid everywhere. The government has more power than any private organization; it just needs to use it right.

    "Furthermore, the levees were not responsible for the flooding; the flood walls were."

    What do you think levees are?
  • Bob Dylan on September 19, 2005 at 11:40 AM
    There's a crash on the levee...
  • libertarian blazer on September 20, 2005 at 8:44 AM
    if more of the disaster relief system were privatized, then people would be contractually obliged to do their respective jobs. the problem with the government is a lack of accountability. What happened when the government messed up? One person got fired. If there was a private enterprise whose only job was coordinating disaster relief, much of the pain in New Orleans would not have happened.
  • news update on September 20, 2005 at 11:56 PM
    Ravi, this is a direct quote from the Washington Post website
    "Experts Blame Faulty Levees


    Inadequate construction cited as likely cause of the floodwall breaching during Hurricane Katrina."
  • Dali Lama on October 9, 2005 at 1:28 AM
    Ah, Ravi. If you had left that last line out I would have considered you intelligent and well informed. But honestly...

    Oh, and not to be harsh or anything, but this probably wasn't one of your most well-written papers, Merlyn. I respect your conclusion, and your facts are well presented, but on the other hand, your paragraphs don't flow well, important points of the argument (like New Orleans' govenor) were left unmentioned, and your use of commas probably wouldn't stand up to a thorough editing.
  • Michael Edwards (View Email) on November 17, 2005 at 12:26 PM
    I believe it is a true disappointment that our government feels the need to neglect our citizens. Poor or rich, white or black we are all citizens of this country and dissever the protection of it. What took place in New Orleans days after the hurricane should be a message to the whole world that the Bush administration's failure to act has turn one of the greatest cities in the world to something resembling a war zone. It also goes to show the ongoing issues that poverty and race play in a country that is supposed to set the standers for human rights around the world. May this Failure never be forgotten as a tribute to those who now know truly how it feels to be neglected by their country!
Jump to first comment