New Orleans

As of September 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, was an abandoned city, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the failure of levees and of urban emergency response in that city.

anarchy and martial law

Military and police officials have said that, as of early September, there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy. It will likely be under direct control of US Homeland Security or even NORTHCOM by the end of the month. Shoot to kill orders are already in effect, and the city may soon be an experiment in martial law.


The fate of this city provides an illustrative example of the fate of poorly-prepared low-lying coastal cities in an age of climate change and hurricanes, tidal waves, monsoons and floods amplified by rising water and temperature, especially in tropical regions such as the US Gulf Coast.


It also provides examples of poor municipal emergency response and urban emergency response efforts, and, neglect of poor urban black populations in the US.

After Hurricane Camille, 36 years earlier, the City opened the flood gates on the 9th ward drowning hundreds of people to save the downtown business area.


The following description of New Orleans from the New York Times:A Failure of Leadership, is illustrative. It describes the situation As of 2005-09 in the second week of the disaster:

"Hospitals with deathly ill patients were left without power, with ventilators that didn't work, with floodwaters rising on the lower floors and with corpses rotting in the corridors and stairwells. People unable to breathe on their own, or with cancer or heart disease or kidney failure, slipped into comas and sank into their final sleep in front of helpless doctors and relatives...

"Death and the stink of decay were all over the city. Corpses were propped up in wheelchairs and on lawn furniture, or left to decompose on sunbaked sidewalks. Some floated by in water fouled by human feces."

"Degenerates roamed the city, shooting at rescue workers, beating and robbing distraught residents and tourists, raping women and girls..."


However some local police have behaved as if this is Mardi Gras or an extended episode of Girls Gone Wild. According to
a report from an eyewitness
in The Guardian:

"At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the hotel saying
'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made
signs for them to lift their T-shirts. When the girls refused, they said
'Fine' and motored off down the road in their boat."" No doubt discarding their dirty sign in the water as well.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush related stories of his own fun times in New Orleans at the airport, probably encouraging the fratboy attitude to the disaster.

While this story will not likely make the press in the USA, many other images will and do. Particularly shocking is the medical situation. The New York Times describes the situations in the shelters:

third world

"Viewers could watch diabetics go into insulin shock on national television, and you could see babies with the pale, vacant look of hunger that we're more used to seeing in dispatches from the third world. You could see their mothers, dirty and hungry themselves, weeping."

"Old, critically ill people were left to soil themselves and in some cases die like stray animals on the floor of an airport triage center" while actual stray animals roamed the city, hungry and terrified, some diseased due to the horrific state of the "water":

oil first

The wreckage of oil extraction and oil refining industries litters the region. Louisiana failed to enforce even its own lax environmental regulations effectively, which led to large amounts of toxic waste being stored in close proximity to New Orleans.

The oil and gas industry, and the levees, have flushed silt out to sea that used to replenish the Mississippi Delta, "so that wetlands that protected it against the sea vanished at a rate of 25 square miles a year - that's one football field every quarter of an hour", says a story in the New York Times (quoted from below).


As of September 2005, this toxic waste, mixed with other industrial chemicals, many dead and dying human bodies, dead and dying pets, raw sewage, seawater and every kind of trash, waste, and garbage imaginable is in what used to be New Orleans. Pumping stations are underwater, leading some to estimate that the "water" will not be removed completely until early in 2006.

The city itself has been evacuated for at least one full month. It is unsafe for any human habitation and it will be at least ten years before it is fully known what the effects were.

flood control failure

US FEMA failure to upgrade levee)s or pumping facilities, and US EPA failure to protect the coastal forests and swamps and islands, which fell to real estate developers and the oil industry under the Bush administration, is blamed for the loss of the city. There have been calls to fire Michael Brown and to impeach George W. Bush over this. The Los Angeles Times reported that "To cut spending, officials gambled that the worst-case scenario would not come to be." In that story, Los Angeles Times:Despite Warnings, Washington Failed to Fund Levee Projects, the paper reports that:

"In late May, the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers formally notified Washington that hurricane storm surges could knock out two of the big pumping stations that must operate night and day even under normal conditions to keep the city dry."

"Also, the Corps said, several levees had settled and would soon need to be raised. And it reminded Washington that an ambitious flood-control study proposed four years before remained just that - a written proposal never put into action for lack of funding."

"What a powerful hurricane could do to New Orleans and the area's critical transportation, energy and petrochemical facilities had been well understood."

"Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps commander, conceded Friday that the government had known the New Orleans levees could never withstand a hurricane higher than a Category 3. Corps officials shuddered, he said, when they realized that Katrina was barreling down on the Gulf Coast with the vastly greater destructive force of a Category 5 - the strongest type of hurricane. Washington, he said, had rolled the dice." It had counted on a low probability high impact event not occurring, despite the threat of climate change.

It was reported by the Los Angeles Times:Despite Warnings, Washington Failed to Fund Levee Projects. And also by The Independent UK:Warnings Went Ignored as Bush Slashed Flood Defense Budget to Pay for Wars:

"Every four miles of marsh shrinks the storm surge by a foot. But the city has become more defenseless as the wetlands that protected it against the sea vanished at a rate of 25 square miles a year - that's one football field every quarter of an hour. The oil and gas industry has caused much of this loss, as have the levees themselves by flushing silt out to sea that used to replenish the Mississippi Delta. While the surges have risen, the city has sunk two feet in the past 60 years."

The story says "officials said plans to prepare for an actual catastrophe were abandoned because of cuts." The Times story, backing this view, detailed the projects and budgets as follows:
  • "Over the years, several projects either were short-changed or never got started. The Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project was authorized by Congress after a rainstorm killed six people in May 1995. It was to be finished in 10 years, but funding reductions prevented its completion before Katrina struck."
  • "The Army Corps of Engineers did spend $430 million to renovate pumping stations and shore up the levees. But experts said the project fell behind schedule after funding was reduced in 2003 and 2004."
  • "The Lake Pontchartrain Project was a $750-million Corps operation for new levees and beefed-up pumping stations. Because of funding cuts, it was only 80% complete when the hurricane hit."
  • "The project that never was started was an examination of storm surges from large hurricanes. Congress approved the study but did not allocate the funds for it." Despite the fact that Hurricane Georges, only a category 3, had already produced a 17ft wall of water, large enough to swamp the oldest of the levees.

"What happened this year was typical: Local levee and flood prevention officials, along with Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), asked for $78 million in project funds. President Bush offered them less than half that - $30 million. Congress ended up authorizing $36.5 million. Since Bush took office in 2001, local experts and Landrieu have asked for just short of $500 million. Altogether, Bush in his yearly budgets asked for $166 million, and Congress approved about $250 million."


Some have suggested Landrieu or (former?) New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin could be a viable US Democratic Party candidate for US President or US Vice-President.