As the mayor of this once thriving city makes plans to allows people (up to 180,000 of them) back into the flood-ravaged city, one thought pops up in my head.
With 90% of the city still without uncontaminated water and floodwater still covering 40-50% of the city, this may be an even bigger disaster in the making. Human and animal waste litter the streets, and there are still contaminants in the floodwaters. Officials have told people to wash themselves off as soon as possible after being exposed to the water; yet without properly working wastewater treatment facilities, they will be sanitizing themselves with water as dirty as they are wading in.
Dr. Peter Deblieux, an emergency room doctor at downtown New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, has stated that “The second wave of disaster is when you welcome the people back and the infrastructure of the city is not in place.” And currently there are only four hospitals up and running, many without a full staff or necessary supplies.
Over 70% of fatalities and injuries from a hurricane happen AFTER the fact – chainsaw wounds, electrocutions from downed power lines, accidental drownings, etc. Where will people get medical treatment if there aren’t enough hospitals to care for them during this time?
The FEMA person in charge, Vice Adm. Thad Allen, has expressed deep concerns about the repopulation plans that Mayor Nagin has drew up; and for good reason. New Orleans really needs to have ALL infrastructure in place, as well as the bowl drained of water, before people should be allowed to move back in to check on their homes and businesses. Sure, it’s a minor inconvenience, but one out of necessity. After disasters of this scale, disease runs rampant; and proper healthcare procedures have to be followed to minimize the spreading of disease. With little or no infrastructure, a widescale epidemic may be in store.
Sure, the ball was dropped by local, state AND federal authorities before and after Katrina in terms of preparation and rescue; those are lessons to be learned for the next disaster. But those bone-headed mistakes don’t need to be continued.
It’s time to think smart and stay out of the Big Easy until everything is ready. Power. Water. Sewage. Medical facilities. Law enforcement; they need to wait until stores are fully stocked and ready to open for people to obtain supplies. It’s just common sense.
Just because a few bars are now open in the French Quarter doesn’t mean New Orleans is back to normal. Booze is a poor substitute for food, and dulls a mind into thinking that everything is ok now.
Get smart, Mayor Nagin. Use your head and think about what’s best for the people of your city. They deserve better.