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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Gulfport-Biloxi Situation

Please read this SunHerald article from the KRT Wire. As I wrote earlier this week, the fuel shortage is one of the major logistical problems for this area. The damage is massive, and time is running short now. Aid trucks aren't getting in because they have no fuel. There are no functioning water and sewage systems:
_A suspected dysentery outbreak resulted in the evacuation of an American Red Cross Shelter on Irish Hill Road across the street from Keesler Air Force Base.

_Fear of a cholera outbreak caused emergency officials to order that areas south of the CSX Railroad in Long Beach and Pass Christian be evacuated.

_The American Red Cross was running low on fuel for its relief efforts.

_No federal or private relief agency had erected tents or other temporary housing for the homeless.
Please read the article. The lack of communications in the area is still severe:
The shelter with the suspected dysentery outbreak has lacked functioning plumbing for five days. Hundreds of people stayed there after the storm. Eight buses arrived at Michele Seventh Grade School around 1 p.m. to begin taking the people to Georgia....

Many who have spent the week at the shelter were walking around town, unaware of the urgent shutdown. Families were split up; those left at the shelter debated whether to evacuate.
A rough choice, right? If they had waited until evening, people would have been back in there for the curfew, but it is hard to drive out at night.

I don't think our entire emergency response system was set up to deal with a disaster involving so many people. Florida's emergency shelters and hotels are full. The surrounding states need to start getting people out of the worst-hit areas and moving them into viable living situations. People who are criticizing the emergency response fail to realize the overwhelming expanse of the destruction. It crosses four states. Some of the areas that have been hit worst will not have municipal services for a long time. This is way past the ability of the federal government or even the normal charities to deal with. Communities and individuals will need to pick up the ball.

Some aid trucks have now been stuck for several days:
Officials reported trucks with supplies stranded without fuel in or near Meridian, about a four-hour from Gulfport. The American Red Cross faced the possibility of parking its supply trucks until more fuel arrives. Mississippi Public Broadcasting, a key source of news and critical information for many throughout the state, put out an urgent call for diesel fuel so it could continue to broadcast.
As I wrote before, people going anywhere near the area need to bring their own fuel. It seems like the area of shortage has expanded, so fuel is needed for a 600 mile round trip plus whatever will be needed for what you are doing in town. Tents won't help without sanitary facilities, food, water and medicine. What's needed has to be trucked in, but it isn't getting in there because of the fuel situation. I think we just need to get a lot of people out of there.

Maybe the most efficient way to move people out is to start clearing the Red Cross shelters and hotels in GA and Florida by moving those people into communities and bussing people from the areas with no municipal services into those shelters so they can meet up with family and friends and decide what to do.

People are still acting as if this is a normal hurricane recovery effort, and it isn't. This is a different situation altogether. The area of extreme devastation extends from around Baton Rouge to about the Mississippi state line, but fuel shortages extend way further. Mobile and Pensacola were both hard hit as well, but they can get services back. However, from parts of LA right through a large chunk of southern MS the situation is extremely bad and it is going to get worse in the communities that can't restore water systems. These places will have to be mostly evacuated for a time. Texas and Florida are about at their limits for accepting refugees, so we need to start pulling people out into neighboring states like GA, TN and AR. See a map of the area.

They got the power back on in Hattiesberg, which is way below Meridian. However many of the smaller communities and rural areas won't have power for several weeks yet. The truly devastated communities along the coast have probably lost water and sewage capacity, so getting power on there won't help that much.

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