Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why the Katrina response was wrong

The response to the hurricane Katrina disaster was so obviously pathetic, that everyone is criticising it. Here I am putting my two bits worth. I will occasionally compare with Australia's response to Tracey in Darwin.

1) George W should have cancelled whatever he was doing when it became certain Katrina was going to make landfall. (He was on holiday or something)

2) He personally should have declared a state of emergency the very minute that he heard the levees had been breached. It was an absolute no-brainer that full scale military command and control was going to be required, requiring emergency laws.

3) Since several states were struck, it was absolute nonsense to involve state governments in any way whatsoever.

Contrast what happened in the aftermath of Tracey. Australia's top military commander was given carte blanche on Christmas Day, holiday of holidays. Communications and electricity being out, he had to make blind guesses as to the state of Darwin. Buses to evacuate the tens of thousands out were sent in from thousands of kilometers away. Proportionally to Aus population at the time, this was quite equivalent. The city was evacuated within a week.

All this argument over Bush going to war over Iraq, yet, I believe this is Bush's real shame.


Dr. Clam said...

You can't avoid (3) without tearing up the Constitution and jumping up and down on the pieces. The United States still operates on a Federal system, to a much greater extent than Australia, and the states concerned in particular have a long tradition of telling the Federal government to bugger off and leave them alone, to the extent of being reduced to rubble over it. Normally this decentralisation of power is a good thing: in this particular case it was a bad thing. But a counterfactual that says 'don't inolve the states' is as silly as a counterfactual that says 'send in the cloned super-soldier penguins to rescue survivors'.

Dr. Clam said...

Do you remember our Katrina, in January 1998? It was a Category 4 cyclone that sat in the Coral Sea looming for a while and then left. I remember the city was more nervous than usual because it was just a week or two after we had been comprehensively inundated by a mere tropical depression. The scary number from this current Katrina to me was the 7 metre storm surge- the storm surge maps for Townsville only show a 4 metre storm surge, and they have a large enough fraction of the city coloured blue... 7 metres is well over the rooftop of my old place and Lexifab's old place in South Townsville. I wonder if there is any prehistoric evidence for storm surges of such a magnitude in North Queensland, and an indication of how common they are?