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This is America! How come Katrina

Americans are speechless and angry at the total collapse of infrastructure.

world Updated: Sep 02, 2005 15:37 IST

Americans are speechless, shocked and angry at the scenes of death and destruction and the total collapse of infrastructure reminiscent of a third world disaster, wreaked by a merciless Hurricane Katrina along the US Gulf coast.

Unpredicted floodwaters from broken levees virtually drowned New Orleans, Louisiana, as the furious hurricane levelled homes, businesses, and infrastructure and may have killed thousands in the three southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

A significant number of Indian Americans own hotels and motels in Mississippi and Alabama but there is no data available on how much they may have lost in terms of business and infrastructure or even lives.

Live scenes are bringing home to shocked Americans the depth of the disaster and the virtual collapse of infrastructure and the looting and chaos amid the devastation that resemble scenes from some developing country.

Andersen Cooper, a CNN correspondent who travelled to Sri Lanka for some live reporting after the December 26 tsunami, reporting from hurricane and flood-hit areas here, said: "This is America! This should not be happening,"

He reported that people were frustrated and angry that bodies were lying on the streets and people were waiting for help for days now.

Another CNN reporter said: "This is not the America I have grown up in," as live pictures zoomed in on the convention centre in New Orleans where thousands of people who sought shelter sat amid bodies and sewage.

Rage is rising among Louisianans and others as they see bodies floating or lying around without being removed, people still trapped in homes or drowned, patients dying in hospitals that are without power with emergency generators unable to start because they are under water.

The tragic thing is that a significant part of the devastation could have been prevented, some talking heads and editorials contend.

They say that it was a known fact that the levees that kept back lake waters in New Orleans would collapse under the hurricane force winds and high waters - and that is what happened.

Some argue that monies that Louisiana wanted for years to strengthen the levees were diverted to Iraq.

The live television broadcasts show that the majority of people affected are African American, a point that will lead to some contending that much of the disaster was a result of underserved areas not being given the attention they should have.

Louisiana is a state where per capita gun-ownership is higher than in many other states and New Orleans is quickly sinking virtually out of control. Since the disaster, snipers are roaming the streets, and apart from the looting and robbing, gunshots are being heard everywhere.

The city of Baton Rouge, which escaped the brunt of the hurricane and the floodwaters, and hospitably took in "refugees" from New Orleans, including Congressman Bobby Jindal and his family, whose home might also have been submerged, is now faced with high crime and endangered streets.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on Thursday that the country would accept help from anywhere to help alleviate the misery.

Sri Lanka donated $25,000 immediately to the American Red Cross. Israel has evidently dispatched or offered help with hundreds of doctors and nurses as well as emergency medical supplies and tents for setting up temporary help.

The UN Disaster Relief Fund is standing by to help even as the US Federal Emergency Management Agency is ratcheting up support services and the National Guard is out to repair the levees and the US Navy is mobilised on the coast to bring help from the waters rather than from land.

First Published: Sep 02, 2005 15:37 IST