Letter from New Orleans

Thomai Hatsios brings this to my attention, a letter from Jordan Flaherty:

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I
was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants
to examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims
of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway,
thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud
and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily
armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it
would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the
barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given
about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be
told where the bus was taking them – Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas,
or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas
(for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge
would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge.
You had no choice but to go to the shelter in Arkansas. If you had people
willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come within 17
miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation
Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were
friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how
many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the
several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able
to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these
questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates
complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told
me “as someone who’s been here in this camp for two days, the only
information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall. You don’t want to
be here at night.”

More here.  [Thanks, Thomai.]