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September 7, 2005
New Orleans And Louisiana Blocking Aid To Refugees In City

Hugh Hewitt had Fox News reporter Major Garrett on his show tonight (transcript at Radioblogger) to explain his breaking story that Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin have blocked aid from reaching the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that buried New Orleans. Blanco and Nagin apparently did not want to encourage people to stay in New Orleans, even though neither one did anything to assist them to leave during the mandatory evacuation:

HH: You just broke a pretty big story. I was watching up on the corner television in my studio, and it's headlined that the Red Cross was blocked from delivering supplies to the Superdome, Major Garrett. Tell us what you found out.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They're not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdom, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuaees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don't I see that?

HH: And the answer is?

MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

HH: Now Major Garrett, on what day did they block the delivery? Do you know specifically?

MG: I am told by the Red Cross, immediately after the storm passed.

HH: Okay, so that would be on Monday afternoon.

MG: That would have been Monday or Tuesday. The exact time, the hour, I don't have. But clearly, they had an evacuee situation at the Superdome, and of course, people gravitated to the convention center on an ad hoc basis. They sort of invented that as another place to go, because they couldn't stand the conditions at the Superdome. ...

HH: I also have to conclude from what you're telling me, Major Garrett, is that had they been allowed to deliver when they wanted to deliver, which is at least a little bit prior to the levee, or at least prior to the waters rising, the supplies would have been pre-positioned, and the relief...you know, the people in the Superdome, and possibly at the convention center, I want to come back to that, would have been spared the worst of their misery.

MG: They would have been spared the lack of food, water and hygiene. I don't think there's any doubt that they would not have been spared the indignity of having nor workable bathrooms in short order.

The Red Cross confirms this on their own web site. Their FAQ makes clear that they will not move forward with their assistance without approval from the authorities in charge. Note, too, that the Red Cross recognizes that the people in charge of the New Orleans disaster area are state and local officials, not the feds (emphases mine):

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Acess [sic] to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city. ...

* The Red Cross shares the nations anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

* The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

It's worth noting that the Red Cross agrees with the decision to make the Superdome available to those residents seeking refuge from the storm, an endorsement of Nagin's decision to open the arena. However, to open the Dome and then refuse to allow the Red Cross to stock it with the supplies necessary to keep the people inside healthy makes no sense whatsoever.

It's also worth noting that the Red Cross gets more access to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay than the people still stuck inside New Orleans.

Once again, we have more evidence that the problems in getting relief to Louisianans stuck inside the New Orleans basin directly relate to decisions made at the state and local level, not federal -- and that the people in charge of the overall effort have been and continue to be Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco. The meme blaming Bush for Hurricane Katrina continues to fall apart, even without wide coverage of the facts by the Exempt Media.

UPDATE: Video at Ian Schwartz's blog.

UPDATE II: Let's see if we can't paint the picture for Rev. Bobby K in the comments. FEMA positioned their assets in the area prior to the storm hitting, but not inside the impact zone, as that would have rendered them useless afterwards. A major component of that comes from the Red Cross. The Red Cross expected that either the local authorities would get the last of its citizens out of New Orleans or allow them to set up their relief provisions inside the city. To this day, the city and state have done neither, nor have they allowed the federal government to take control of the relief effort to make these decisions themselves. That means that the Red Cross personnel (and the relief provisions that FEMA helped them stage) have no way to reach those in the city anywhere, including the Superdome, the Convention Center, or any of the other shelters in New Orleans. Until Nagin and Blanco allow them to go to the victims or act to bring the victims out to them, the residents will not see any relief supplies except that dropped to them by air, a dicey proposition at best when facing toxic flood waters.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 7, 2005 9:38 PM

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