Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Disasters

Trapped in the Superdome: Refuge becomes a hellhole
Crack vials littered the restroom. Blood stains the walls next to vending machines smashed by teenagers.

The Louisiana Superdome, once a mighty testament to architecture and ingenuity, became the biggest storm shelter in New Orleans the day before Katrina's arrival Monday. About 16,000 people eventually settled in. Within two days, it had degenerated into unspeakable horror.

"There is feces on the walls," said Bryan Hebert, 43, who arrived at the dome Monday. "There is feces all over the place."

The Superdome is patrolled by more than 500 Louisiana National Guard, many of whom carry machine guns as sweaty, smelly people press against metal barricades that keep them from leaving, shouting as the soldiers pass by: "Hey! We need more water! We need help!"

The soldiers — most are sleeping only two or three hours a night, and many have lost houses themselves — say they are doing the best they can with limited resources and no infrastructure. But they have become the target of many refugees' anger.

One man tried to escape yesterday by leaping over a barricade and racing toward the streets. The man was desperate, National Guard Sgt. Caleb Wells said. Everything he was able to bring to the Superdome had been stolen.

Some images here.

Survivors reveal Superdome horror

Katrina Survivors Face Cops, Gougers, Scams, ‘Gangs’
Outside the worst-hit areas, refugees have found themselves in harsh competition for necessities like gasoline and temporary shelter as opportunistic merchants are reportedly raising prices, taking advantage of increased demand for staples in the wake of the natural disaster.

Even in New Orleans, where very little buying and selling is taking place, price exploitation is at play. Hawaiian emergency medical workers stranded in New Orleans told their hometown paper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, that they had to pay $45 for two plates of fried squash and rice and one can of warm cola to split among four women.

On Tuesday, survivors absconded with everything from food to computers at a Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, according to a detailed report by local daily Times-Picayune. The paper’s reporters said the scene began as a giveaway of essential items orchestrated by police but quickly erupted into a free-for-all looting extravaganza with police losing control and civilians accusing police of stealing "all the best stuff."

Police officers interviewed by the Times-Picayune said the looting was beyond their control throughout the city. "We don't have enough cops to stop it," the officer said. "A mass riot would break out if you tried."

Many law enforcement agents readily acknowledged to reporters that they recognized many people in the affected areas have no other access to food, clothing or first-aid supplies. With few emergency supplies making it to stranded survivors, supplies held in vacated storefronts constitute a vital lifeline.

By Wednesday evening, the relative goodwill of authorities had run out in New Orleans as well. Mayor Ray Nagin announced that nearly the entire active city police force was under orders to cease any search-and-rescue efforts and focus on suppressing looters.

"It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much," Nagin said. "Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that."
The Psychology of Looting

For Japan Tsunami Survivors, Woes Keep Mounting
Nearly a week after their home town was annihilated in a catastrophic tsunami, the 1,000-plus survivors of the small Japanese fishing town of Otsuchi are hanging by a thread.

With no water or electricity, and scant food, survivors keep each other company at one of three emergency shelters on the outskirts of what remains of the town.

"You can't wash your hands or face," says 72-year-old Katsu Sawayama, seated in the middle of the high school gymnasium, the biggest of the shelters in a town where more than half the 17,000 residents are still missing.

Adding to their woes, an unseasonal snowstorm sent temperatures plunging to below zero and blanketed acres of tsunami debris in white.

Like tens of thousands of people along Japan's northeast coast, the Otsuchi survivors have nowhere else to go.

Meals are barely enough to sustain them — half a rice ball and a small bowl of miso soup is a luxury; a slice of bread might have to feed a family of three.

"Whatever they give us, we just gratefully receive. At least they're feeding us three times a day," said Sayawama.

Earthquake refugees battle for survival in freezing northeast Japan
About 400 people found shelter at the hastily arranged welfare center in an elementary school gymnasium in Ofunato, on the Pacific coast, one of the areas hit hardest by the March 11 devastating earthquake.

Showing signs of fatigue, the refugees are cuddling together under thin blankets for warmth amid freezing temperatures in the cramped evacuation center with no electricity. There are two electric stoves with a power generator which is about to run out of fuel. "I could sleep only for three hours because it was so cold," Yotsuko Tanaka said after waking up at 4 a.m. on March 15, four days after the killer tremor devastated the region. "Seven of us are sharing a large blanket," said the 72-year-old Tanaka, whose home was wiped away by powerful tsunami waves.

Over a dozen nursery school children, haunted by fears of tsunami waves, are also cuddling together at the candlelit refugee center.

In Rikuzentakata, another city on the Pacific coast in Iwate Prefecture, about 800 people found shelter at a nursery home. The refugee center begins to get shrouded in complete darkness at around 6 p.m. and the evacuees light candles given by a nearby temple.

Some images here.

Hilltop city in Japan becomes a refuge for earthquake, tsunami survivors
The city's resilience in the face of a still-unfolding tragedy that killed at least 10,000 people and destroyed whole towns on the northeast coast is credited to its topography.

“We were so lucky really. I haven’t heard of any serious injuries amongst people I know,” says a security guard keeping watch outside the Hitachi Futo shipping company’s lot in the city’s harbor.

Behind him, brand new Mercedes-Benz cars are stacked on top of each other like toys in a child’s playroom, recently arrived from Germany but tossed around and mangled by the tsunami.

at the Hitachi Hotel Crane, families escaping the devastation of the worst-affected areas are simply happy to have a dry place to stay, despite a lack of running water – although the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, only 60 miles away, weighed heavily.

“There’s no electricity where we were and it’s still cold at night, so it feels great to be here,” says a man checking into the hotel with his young family.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011, a Queue, Crowd Control, How You Can Help
We all know the typical response immediately after a tragedy – chaos, looting, violence, mob mentality, and other look-out-for-yourself behaviors. But, for now anyway, that seems to be absent in Japan.

if there’s looting and mob violence, medical and security personnel will be on the scene to assist victims and to enforce order. But, since there isn’t any of that in the Japan earthquake so far, medical and security personnel can continue to focus on finding real victims from the tsunami and the earthquake.
Reports of looting in Japan?

At Miyagi in earthquake disaster going on board and theft 40 case prefectural police note calling

Why No Looting In Japan? Ctd

Why is there no looting in Japan after the earthquake?

And what about:
Aceh, Indonesia
Sri Lanka
New Zealand

Looting, like pricing, is taking unfair advantage of a disaster or tragedy. Dogs know when they've been kicked or accidentally stepped on. In the history of the common law we find that law courts could only go by the books, so the chancery courts had to step in to deal with the human questions of fairness and civility. That is how we ended up with different remedies in law and in equity.

Yes, questions of looting, as filtered through the notions of fairness and civility, is in the somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but most of us can agree differences do exist.

Of course, some people just don't have much sympathy for disaster of any sort, if they can make political mileage out of it, regardless where or how or whom the disaster strikes.

Rush Limbaugh, for instance, but as only one politically contempt example.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home