In New Orleans, the city’s mayor is now estimating 10,000 people may have died following last week’s devastating hurricane.
Meanwhile President Bush has nominated Judge John Roberts to replace the late William Rehnquist as Chief Justice of the United States. We’ll have more on the Roberts nomination in the show.
House-to-house searches are continuing in the city. Most of the dead from Hurricane Katrina have not yet been identified and officials are warning that many may never be. Many bodies have decomposed in the floodwaters and heat before they were found. Dental records across the region have also been lost in the flood.
In New Orleans, the water levels have begun to decrease after the Army Corps of Engineers closed a major gap in the levee that burst. Water is now being pumped back into Lake Pontchartrain but the removal of floodwater may take months. In the words of the city’s deputy police chief New Orleans is “completely destroyed.” As many as 10,000 residents remain in the city either because they are still trapped or are refusing to leave. Most of the city remains without power, drinkable water or food supply.
On Monday, President Bush visited the region for the second time in four days. He vowed the relief effort would go on “Laura and I have come back down to Louisiana, and then we’re going over to Mississippi, to let the good people of this region know that there’s a lot of work to be done,” Bush said. “And we’re continuing to work with the local and state people to get it done.”
Meanwhile former President Bill Clinton told CNN that the government had failed the people of the Gulf Coast and he called for the eventual formation of an independent commission to examine the government’s response to Katrina. “I think there should be an analysis of what happened and I have some strong feelings on how I feel FEMA should be organized and operated but the time to do that, in my opinion is after some time passes,” said Clinton. “Right now we still have…we are still finding bodies there and there might be some people alive there.
Criticism of the federal government’s response is also coming from some unlikely sources including the Pentagon. Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, a Pentagon spokesman for Northern Command, revealed on the BBC that NorthCom was prepared to send in search and rescue helicopters from the USS Bataan almost immediately after the hurricane hit. He said, “We had things ready. The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so.” That authorization didn’t happen for days even though the ship was docked just outside New Orleans. On board the ship had doctors, hospital beds, food and the ability to make up to 100,000 gallons of water a day.
The Cuban government has also announced that the U.S. State Department rebuffed its offer of aid. Last Tuesday Cuba offered to send 1100 doctors to assist in the crisis. Cuba said the doctors could have been on the ground by last Wednesday.
Some commentators on the web are suggesting the U.S. could learn about hurricane preparedness from Cuba. Last year the United Nations commended Cuba as a model for hurricane preparation after surviving Category 5 hurricane. Ivan destroyed 20,000 houses but reportedly no one died because the government orchestrated the evacuation of 1.5 million people to higher ground.
A number of musicians and actors have come to the defense of hip-hop star Kanye West. On Friday night West appeared on a live NBC telethon and said that President Bush doesn’t care about Black people. He also criticized the media for its portrayal of African-Americans in New Orleans. Fellow hip-hop star P. Diddy told the program Access Hollywood “I think he spoke from his heart. He spoke what a lot of people feel.” In New York at least one participant in the West Indian Day Parade was seen carrying a sign that read “Kanye West was Right.”
While the federal government has been widely criticized for its slow response, former First Lady Barbara Bush told the radio show Marketplace that the relocation is “working very well” for some of those forced out of New Orleans since they were “underprivileged anyway.” This is Barbara Bush speaking at the Astrodome in Houston. “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this—this working very well for them,” Bush said.
Survivors in the Astrodome had a different story to tell. This is Bertha Miller speaking in Houston about her missing family members. “I have no idea where they are. I am here in this city all by myself,” Miller said. “There is no one. I’m seeing people joining with their families and it hurts. I don’t know how long I can keep my sanity. I’m afraid for my own life. If I am missing there is no one to say that I’m missing. So it does hurt, but I’m trying to hold on.”
And there were heroic stories coming out of New Orleans. The Los Angeles Times reports that a six-year-old boy named Deamonte Love helped rescue six young children including a 5-month-old. Deamonte was also with three two-year-olds, a 3-year-old and a 14-month-old.
Congressman John Lewis is calling on the Bush administration to launch a massive Marshall-type plan to rebuild New Orleans and urban America as a whole. He said, “By next year we’ll have spent $400 billion to $500 billion in Afghanistan and Iraq. That money could be used to help rebuild the lives of people. If we fail to act as a nation, I don’t think history will be kind to us.”