Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Chaos
All over the US there was only one news story on TV : Hurricane Katrina. Particularly the states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana were affected by this violent storm, that caused a real havoc along the coastline. This hurricane was a Category 3, with winds up to 125 miles per hour ! It was the sixth heaviest hurricane ever recorded, and the third heaviest that ever came ashore.
The powerful hurricane-force winds tore apart houses and roofs, and the debris was turned into deadly projectiles. Windows broke by the hundreds, and the wind and the rain got free reign in the interiors.
Another unexpected event was that the wind raised a six-foot high tsunami-like tidal wave, that carried with it thousands of tons of wooden debris. This enormous ram pounded on the (mostly wooden) homes, that collapsed like so many card houses and joined this ponderous flow of fracas.
There was an even greater problem in New Orleans, that had already been hit hard . We looked at the images of the devastation, and it appeared that the hurricane itself was only indirectly responsible for the enormous large scale of this natural disaster.
A large part of downtown New Orleans is actually lower than the ocean level, AND also lower than the water level of nearby Lake Pontchartrain, from which the city draws its fresh water. The city is separated from the lake by earthen levees, which are just as old as the city itself.
In two places these levees had been ruptured by the high water level, and almost immediately some eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded, sometimes by six feet of water. Already thousands of victims were mentioned, but most of these were caused by the flooding and not by the hurricane itself !
About ninety percent of the population had left the city, since a general evacuation had been ordered. Most people had left the city, since a general evacuation had been ordered. Those who remained were people that were too old or too sick, or that lacked the means or the foresight to leave the city. Which comes down to the less well-to-do and a considerable part of the black population.
The Louisiana Superdome
With most residents being away from their home and an almost deserted downtown, life almost immediately turned into a complete chaos, with widely spread theft, looting, rape, shootings, carjackings, and in short all the unsavory acts that a complete state of lawlessness brings forth in a mob.
More than 2.5 million people went without electricity and water for at least two weeks ! Furthermore, officials already foresaw that it would take up to four weeks before the residents would be permitted to return to their homes.
On Tuesday, the mayor of New Orleans declared martial law, and ordered everyone to leave the city. However, he couldn't provide the necessary resources for the thousands of hospitalized patients, the sick, the disabled and the poor.
In the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome, more than 35,000 people were packed like herrings in a barrel. The city authorities had set up this sports center as a shelter for those who didn't have the means to leave the city.
Now however, the stadium's roof had partially been destroyed by the hurricane, and it rained almost as much inside as outside... The bathrooms broke down in no time, and the water supply quickly ran out. Nor had any food or water been foreseen for such a tremendous crowd, since everyone had presumed that people could just go home once the storm was over !
Inside the building, chaos reigned among the mass. There were numerous reports of drug abuse, theft, fights and rapes, and simply unthinkably dirty living conditions.
Originally, more than one hundred deaths were reported in the Superdome, most of them by heat prostration and dehydration. After these reports were officially "sanitized", only six deaths remained, of which four by natural causes, one overdose and one suicide...
The remaining population, predominantly black, exploded in no time into a brainless flood of hungry and desperate people !
The scarce TV pictures of the downtown area showed nothing but horrific images of massive looting, plunder and pillage. People were frantically dragging away everything that was not too hot or too heavy.
The equally scarce police officers on the scene apparently just let them be, probably because neither the administration nor the police could cope with such a tidal wave of crime and violence. There was no trace of any organized assistance to the countless victims of this disaster, even though it had been predicted, nor was there any large scale deployment of the perfectly equipped military...
The aftermath of these events will eventually far outweigh the hurricane itself, since most of the city would have to be rebuilt !