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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Was FEMA ready for a disaster like Katrina?

Nightly News with Brian Williams - MSNBC.com: By Lisa Myers, Senior investigative correspondent, NBC News, Updated: 6:46 p.m. ET Sept. 2, 2005

WASHINGTON - The terrorist attacks of 2001 changed the priorities and focus of federal emergency planners. Former officials say 9/11 diverted attention from natural disasters such as Katrina, which had been the primary focus of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A government document obtained by NBC News shows just how radically the focus shifted to terrorism. It is dated July 2004 and lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises scheduled to prepare for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes.
"And even in both of those cases, they're dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event," says NBC News analyst William Arkin.

What's more, it appears that the federal government did not follow up on an exercise last year that mostly predicted what happened in New Orleans — devastating flooding and hundreds of thousands stranded.
The scenario was dubbed Hurricane Pam: 120 mph winds, a massive storm surge, 20 feet of water in the city, 80 percent of buildings damaged, refugees on rooftops, possibly gun violence that would slow the rescue.
"What bothers me the most is all the people who've died unnecessarily," says Ivor Van Heerden, a hurricane researcher from Louisiana State University who ran the exercise.
Van Heerden says the federal government didn't take it seriously.
"Those FEMA officials wouldn't listen to me," he says. "Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information."
One recommendation from the exercise: Tent cities should be prepared for the homeless.
"Their response to me was: 'Americans don't live in tents,' and that was about it," recalls Van Heerden.
However, others say it's unfair to blame the federal government, that no amount of planning could have prepared for this.
"We have trained against similar scenarios, but it's not the same as a crisis unfolding before your eyes," says Frank Cilluffo, a former Bush administration aide for homeland security.
Homeland security officials also argue that no one predicted that flooding and devastation would encompass not just New Orleans but the entire Gulf Coast.
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not only the third world countries like Sri Lanka that are unprepaired.... It has been five days and the whole world responded to the asian Tsunami faster than the US govt is responding to Katrina right now. At the time of the asian Tsunami I thought the US was sluggish beacause they did not care about poor people in third world countries like Sri Lanka but appearently they don't seem to care about their own poor either.  


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