Friday, September 02, 2005

Nightmare in New Orleans

I'm taking a break from Gloriagate to dwell on a situation on the other side of the globe: the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina slammed into it. This is after reading an account of the devastation - there really is no other word to describe it - in the International Herald Tribune website.

Of course I've heard about the storm; I do watch CNN still, every now and then. Besides, it's not everyday you hear of a Category 5 storm, especially one that blew into a major city. I'm not as familiar with the Hurricane Category scale as I am with the Fujita Scale (the one for tornadoes), but knowing that Cat-5 is the highest is info enough for me.

Damage and loss of lives were to be expected. Filipinos aren't strangers to killer storms as we get really rough typhoons every year. We know that despite one's preparation there really is little that can be done against the fury of nature unleashed.

But... the way IHT described the situation at New Orleans you'd think you were watching a post-apocalypse movie. A stadium sardine-packed with refugees, with more streaming in and tempers flaring, sanitation deteriorating, food, medicine and water rapidly depleting. Bodies - thousands might have been killed, despite the early warning, according to government sources - floating in flooded streets. Massive looting. People trying to escape from a city virutally dead in stolen vehicles.

All I could think of while reading the article was, "my God..."

Perhaps it was the fact that the city being spoken of was in America. And not just any city: this was New Orleans. This is the city of cajuns and nice, spicey food. Of vodoun. It isn't New York or Las Vegas or Los Angeles but New Orleans is a city steeped in culture. Heck, it was one of the places I wanted to go to in case I found myself in North America.

But to hear a major modern city being evacuated and abandoned for months on end outside of a warzone is something... new. A city abandoned by its populace becauyse of war or plague is something that seems to still fall under my Training. Those things are nothing new. How many ruined cities stand in the former Yugoslavia, in Africa? But New Orleans...?

I feel for the survivors of this tragedy. The storm may have spent its fury, but their trials are far from over.

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