Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dueling hyperbole, and a serious question about Katrina.

The war of ridiculous hyperbole continues, as Mississippi governor Haley Barbour sees CNN's Gary Tuchman's "hell on earth" and raises him one "Hiroshima after the atomic bomb." I'll bet that comparison went over well with the Japanese, who never got the chance to wait out the nuclear blast in their rowboats. (Thanks to commenter "South of the Border" for the link.)

But seriously, here's a bit of a puzzler. By all accounts, the eye of the storm actually missed the city of New Orleans -- most news reports describe it as having veered off just enough at the last minute to spare the city the dead-on hit that many were predicting.

And yet, most news reports also have those in charge of rescue and relief efforts describing the damage to the city as "unimaginable" or "overwhelming" or "totally beyond our worst fears."

I'm sorry but just how unprepared do you have to be to have the storm not as bad as it could have been, and still have damage beyond what you could have imagined? Sure, it's not an exact science but, really, who's running things down there?

: I'm moderately amused by Barbour's comparison of New Orleans to Hiroshima. I'm wondering if anyone's going to have the cojones to use a comparison like, "It's awful. Just pure devastation. It's like the city of Fallujah, after we bombed it and its helpless citizens into the Stone Age using massive, overwhelming, indiscriminate firepower against which they had absolutely no defense."

Never mind, it was just a passing thought. Carry on.

AND YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING: Still more brain-dead comparisons, this one courtesy of this morning's Globe and Mail:

Yesterday, a clearly shaken Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu compared Katrina's devastation to the Indian Ocean tsunamis that struck without warning and killed 200,000.

Mercifully, reporter Paul Koring immediately injects some reality back into the situation:

While some scenes of coastal devastation may look similar, there is a crucial difference: Before Katrina blasted ashore, it had been closely tracked for more than two weeks. There were clear warnings about the threat it posed and plenty of time to evacuate.

Yeah, so it was just like that big Asian tsunami thingie ... except for the ways that it was totally different.

I can't even blog on this anymore. I think I'll go back to beating up on creationists. Or Pete Rempel.


Anonymous said...

The lack of an early warning system was a huge contributor to the loss of life in Asia when the tsunami struck.

Contrast that to Katrina, where mandatory evacuations were used to tell people to get out of town. Yet apparently thousands felt they didn't need to heed the early warnings.

Maybe so many wouldn't be stranded in attics and on roofs if they had actually acted on the disaster plans...

Anonymous said...

Yet apparently thousands felt they didn't need to heed the early warnings.

Thousands didn't have cars or enough money to "act on disaster plans". Thousands of people are too poor to move on out, even with warning. And what about the infirm? Are they to blame for their plight too?

And of course, there have been total evacuation orders before, where the place they all evacuated to got hit worse than the city itself. These are people who've lived through dozens of these things, and it's been okay every other time. I certainly have less sympathy for these people than the poor and infirm, but jeez, you can surely see how they might have thought they'd be okay.

Anonymous said...

But I think what bothers me more about this tragedy than the floods themselves, is that so much could have been avoided.

I'll agree with you there, but I blame the asshole who appropriated the money from fixing the levees and sent it to the Iraq war.

But those who simply didn't have the money to leave could have gone to the Superdome...

I asked a friend who used to live in New Orleans about that, as I was wondering wtf was going on there too. What she said was that in the past, going to the superdome was what you did if you were homeless, or knew your house was doomed (not up to flood standards, or really low lying, as in more so than others). The problem was/is that they give you one lousy hotdog. One. If you have any food, it disappears while you sleep. The squalor in there is absolutely sickening. So people stay home, in the homes that have stood up before, hoping it works for them this time. Sure, it's a chance they take, but when your choices are squalor, heat and no food and your attic, heat, enough food for a few days and the hope of a later rescue... It's pretty hard to make the choice to leave.

I think this need to say, "If they'd done this..." is just a way of saying, "It can't happen to me", which is something I can certainly understand. I'm one of the first to think, "WHY would they live there if they had any sort of choice?!" But I moved to an earthquake zone, so who am I to say that?! :)