Lessons Of A Disaster
Lessons of a disaster
NEARLY five months after the Hurricane Katrina ravaged America?s South, a US Congress investigation report has termed the disaster as a ?national failure?. The 600-page report has noted that the response to the Hurricane Katrina had been that of total failure by the US government at all levels ? from the White House down to local government officials in New Orleans.
Although the report is the result of an inquiry carried out by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, it is surprisingly candid and scathing in its observations and conclusions. The report only goes to confirm what the Americans and rest of the world have long suspected. That the inadequate response to one of the worst natural disasters in the US history was the result of a complete systemic failure.
Despite its awesome infrastructure and infinite resources, the world?s richest and most powerful country was found wanting when it came to dealing with a natural disaster. As the House of Representatives report aptly puts it, overall the response to Katrina was marked by ?fecklessness, flailing and organisational paralysis.? Authors of the report are ?left scratching our heads at the range of clumsiness and ineptitude that characterised government behaviour before and after this storm.?
Over 1400 people died as the result of the hurricane that struck America on August 29 and exposed its soft underbelly. New Orleans, the legendary city in America?s South, was completely flooded when the levees broke. The city or what remains of it now lost billions of dollars of property to the forces of nature. In fact, it has yet to recover from the devastation and its thousands of residents are still living in hotels and make-shift shelters. Five months after the Katrina tragedy, it is still hard to fathom the extent of the devastation and how the so-called disaster response system and authorities failed in responding to the crisis despite prior and repeated warnings.
But if the US, or for that matter any other country around the world, is to avoid the repeat of a tragedy such as the Hurricane Katrina in future, it would take these findings of the House investigation seriously. The House report comes just ahead of a similar exercise by the White House, to be released next month. And the Senate is right now questioning the FEMA chief Michael Brown and Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff on their response or lack of it to the Hurricane Katrina. This game of passing the buck could get nasty in the days to come. Eventually, what matters is if America and the world have drawn their necessary lessons from this catastrophe and are better prepared for the future.