Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Evacuation vs. relief

CCG Spencer, New Orleans, 9/1/05
USCG photo
You'd be forgiven for concluding from the news that government cares more about corporate property than about human lives. Even as the state of Louisiana deployed National Guardsmen against looting in New Orleans, it banned relief agencies from entering the city.

From the Red Cross website:
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
Don Boudreaux interprets this statement to mean that
government apparently feared that the Red Cross would deliver relief with too much success. Why else would people choose not to leave a destroyed city, and even want to return to it?
Let's get this straight. Relief workers were kept out of NOLA, not because it was inaccessible, but because their entry would have been contrary to a post-disaster plan which prioritized evacuation over relief. This remained the case even while that plan was stumbling and direct relief could have saved lives.

Still not sure? Try this passage from the Times-Picayune's important open letter to the President:
Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.
Wal-Mart allowed in, but not the Red Cross?


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