Thursday, September 01, 2005

Officials forecast economic shutdown for months

After all that has befallen the Gulf Coast states, it is surprising to see any normality. If there are to be functioning places at all, it is fitting in this area that one of them should be a bar; and no surprise that New Orleans’ only open bar (The Avenue Pub) does some trade and arms its bartender with a shotgun.

It is no surprise either that Mayor Nagin of New Orleans declared “For the next two or three months, in this area, there will not be any commerce at all. No electricity, no restaurants” but my fear is that as with most predictions after a major disaster, realtime recovery will take a very much greater time.

Why do I fear this? Because, for reasons I can’t explain, the effects of this hurricane have emotionally touched me more than the Boxing Day tsunami did. Perhaps that’s because the tsunami was so utterly devastating in its extent that it was impossible to really comprehend: Hurricane Katrina is pushing towards the limit of a person’s ability to understand.

Whatever the philosophising done over the coming months, there are still developments and things to report. People are running out of fuel for their cars after trying to return to outlying areas because there is simply nothing left in entire swathes of the landscape. Bush has assured the suffering regions that enormous federal help is on the way, that “zero tolerance” should be shown to looters, and that New Orleans will be restored to a great city. (What his conception of a great city is may perhaps give some worry — see the next post up.)

National Guard troops in Louisiana and Mississippi are to be increased to just over 18,000 as gunfire threatens military helicopters and relief efforts. Other than this news, not much more is emerging: we are seeing a coalescence and repetition of general trends: flooding, lack of power, unknown casualties, unknown rescue times, civil unrest, promises of aid.

As usual, get your news updates from the Times-Picayune (which now operates as a weblog and a PDF-based newspaper) and the other links given in the posts further down this page.

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