When the words fail

In the aftermath of this natural disaster surely even the most staid and conservative amongst us are beginning to see the inadequacy of the terms which litter media reporting. "LOOTERS!" scream the headlines, yet when we read the text we see images of people desperate to get food, supplies and clothing.

Tens of thousands of people were left stranded. Efforts to evacuate them are confronted with enormous difficulties and severely strained resources. Most of the people stranded are the ill, the infirm, the poor. People for whom evacuation warnings meant little, because they simply had no means by which they could leave. And they are left in increasingly dire circumstances. The sheer scale of the event leaves authorities bewildered as to how they can rescue the survivors.

In such times it makes little sense to focus on the opportunists. Sure, there are those who would take advantage of any situation, and who have plundered jewellery stores and the like. But for the most part the reports we see describe people who are trying to obtain food and even drinking water as 'looters'. Surely such an emotive and value-laden term does nothing to acknowledge their plight.

Our energies are wasted in focussing attention on the opportunists in such a time. Instead it should be focussed on the desperate needs of those in danger and of those who have lost all in the disaster. But we should remain mindful of the opportunists to come. Predators will inevitably take advantage of human generosity with 'Disaster scams'. Please don't be victim to them. People who wish to help should make their contributions only via the recognised and reputable channels.

American Red Cross has set up a means of donating online. So have the Salvation Army and many other religious organisations. The Oklahoma based Feed the Children organisation has devoted its current attention to hurricane disaster relief.

Give if you can, and do so generously, but be careful to give in a way that is going to help. Those people who wish to check on the legitimacy of organisations, websites and other sources who are soliciting donations can make use of the advice and assistance available at The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

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Just to update: Martial Law has been declared in Louisiana. Mandatory national guard callups have been ordered, and shelters in New Orleans are being evacuated due to rising waters.

Hell on earth.

Looting is inexcusable for whichever reason.
And most of the looters won't stop at stealing some food from a store, they'll concentrate on electronics, jewelry, and other expensive yet portable luxuries (as has been shown time and again in the past).

What disgusts me is that there's no large international call for sending emergency aid to the stricken area.
Far smaller disasters elsewhere generate such calls immediately from aid organisations, but I guess the USA is too rich for the people there to warrant the sympathy of the rest of the world.

Good luck to all who are hit by this, may you be able to restore your life to some sense of normalcy and may your losses be limited.

One man has jumped to his death inside the superdome, where roughly 30,000 refugees are being held.

There is no doubt that the assistance of people around the globe is going to be needed and welcomed, and I'd urge people everywhere to consider the people of these devastated areas.

Katrina's destruction came in one of the nation's poorest regions.

"These three states, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, all have high rates of poverty," says Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Center for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. "These are the kinds of people who don't have access to insurance, the kind of people who, when a catastrophe hits, don't have a safety net."

Public-policy analysts predicted it will take months or years for the region to rebuild and that some hard-hit families may never fully recover.

"This state does not have the expendable income to bring us right back," said David Sansing, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi. "Most people in this state live month-to-month."

There comes a time when pontificating, moralising and analysing simply shows shallowness. There comes a time where all that really matters is what you can give. This is one of them.

Just saw some video from Mississipi. The devastation is complete (and I mean complete, like almost nothing left standing and what is standing structurally damaged to the point of having to be torn down), no different from what hit Atjeh or Thailand in December last year.

An area the size of a small country is effectively gone. No more local economy, no more infrastructure.
Even news organisations are sending their helicopters to help in the relief effort rather than (as they usually do) hover over the area in search of a story.

An update.

For the benefit of those people struggling with images of "looters" I'd like to simply urge you to cast those conceptions aside and feel compassion. (No, not singling you out jwenting. There are many people who have the same reaction to the images.)

There's been an excellent article published by the Washington Post which examines the phenomenon which occurs in war zones and disaster areas, and which is all too often simply dismissed as 'looting'. I'd urge everybody to read it, and to feel for the plight of all those people caught up in the disaster.

Thank goodness my own Nation has been one of the first to offer assistance. It helps alleviate some of the discomfort I've been feeling. From News.com.au

PRIME Minister John Howard has sent a personal message of sympathy to US President George W. Bush in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
My Howard said today Australia was "looking at ways of providing assistance" after Katrina slammed into US Gulf states this week killing possibly thousands of people and wreaking widespread damage.

Mr Howard said in Longford in northern Tasmania that the damage from Katrina had been "horrific".

"I have sent a personal message of sympathy to President Bush, but I want publicly to express on behalf of all Australians our sense of concern and our feelings for the people who have lost so much and have been affected by this terrible natural disaster," he said.

Cat, the vast majority of looters are looting not food and other essentials but televisions, jewelry, and other luxury items.
There can be no excuse for shooting up a childrens' hospital to get at the morphine in order to get high.

The city was ordered evacuated before the huricane struck. Those who ignored the evacuation order should have taken it as a warning to be prepared and stocked up on food and stuff.
They had quite enough time, the entire area knew a major hurricane was coming a week in advance after all.

If there were still no relief effort underway a week or two after the hurricane struck, maybe by then there'd be justification for breaking open stores to get at canned food and drink, sturdy shoes (to walk out) and camping supplies (like gaspowered stoves and firemaking tools).
But relief efforts are underway, and people still in the area can get help if they want it.
That means there's no excuse for them to go looting.

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