Hurricane Katrina one of the deadliest and costliest hurricane hits Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It caused unprecedented damage of residential properties which rendered 300,000 inhabitable. In these states about 2.4million to 2.5 million power customers reported outages.
The storm crippled thirty-eight emergency call centers, and knocked out more than 3 million customer phone lines. Broadcast communications were likewise severely affected, as 50 percent of area radio stations and 44 percent of area television stations went off the air. In fact, Hurricane Katrina caused at least ten oil spills, releasing the same quantity of oil as some of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The
storm surge struck 466 facilities that handle large amounts of dangerous chemicals, thirty-one hazardous waste sites, and sixteen Superfund toxic waste sites, three of which flooded. The surge also destroyed or compromised 170 drinking water facilities and dozens of wastewater treatment facilities.
About 1,800 human lives were lost in this tragedy. The total impact was estimated at $200 billion.
Response from People
Thousands of people left separated, stranded with no access to home. Wide scale looting was reported in the areas struck with disaster. The looters were armed, formed gangs and did not shy away from shooting at police helicopters and rescue workers. Security Management report Group international paper quotes “By August 30, looting had spread throughout the city, often in broad daylight
and in the presence of police officers. Incapacitated by the breakdown of transportation and
communication and overwhelmed in terms of numbers, police officers could do little to stop crime,
and shopkeepers who remained behind were left to defend their property alone. Looters
reportedly included gangs of armed gunmen, and gunfire was heard in various parts of the city.
Along with violent, armed robbery of non-essential valuable goods, the majority of incidents were
of residents simply gathering food, water and other essential commodities from unstaffed grocery
stores. There were also reports that some police officers participated in this same kind of looting”
Government responded by activating a team of 58,000 national guards. Unprecedented amount of aid, food, medical supplies and trained men arrive at the scene. But they have to face a completely different problem. Instead of focusing on searching for survivors they have to protect themselves from attacks of looters. In many instances, looters overpower them hence unprecedented amount of police force needs to be called in. Once situation was under control the aid workers had to go an extra mile to generate confidence among the local population and win their hearts before they could carry on the rescue efforts.
The Aftermath : 2010 census shows that New Orleans which bore the major brunt of the hurricane has reduced to one third its size because of Hurricane Katrina. Two third of the population has migrated elsewhere.
Unprecedented 994 mm of rain swooped down to Mumbai in less than 24 hours. Antiquated drainage system which is capable of carrying on 25 mm of water per hour was thrown out of gear. The whole city resembled a pond with men, women, vehicles, shops floating around. As every natural disaster, this crisis hit the weakest the hardest. Hundreds and thousands of school children were stranded in schools, office going men and women who typically travel about 30-50 km to office were stranded in office. Water rushed in low lying areas and in several places water levels in excess of 6 ft were recorded. Several people drowned within the city (unthinkable isn’t it) and the official death toll rose to about 1,100. The entire mass transportation system came to a grinding halt and all roads were clogged with vehicles and standstill traffic jam lasting several hours.
It took several hours for people and government authorities to understand what had happened. In-city flooding is nothing new to Mumbai but the scale was unprecedented. So after sitting in their cars for 4-6 hours without moving an inch people decided to do something about it. Food and shelters were offered to anyone and everyone who was in need. Some houses opened set up a tea-stalls to offer a steaming hot cup of tea to the passer bys for free. Many school children and office going people took shelter with people who they had never known, never met before and in probability may never meet them again. On roads, to beat the rising water levels people formed human chains and waded chest high water to reach home. The eye witnesses say that there was no sense of suffering or victimhood, in fact there was a sense of brotherhood and willingness to support each other. They were singing songs, cracking jokes and chatting loudly and inviting those who were standing on the sidelines.
Government responded a bit late to the crisis. Basically, most of the people helped themselves, government agencies swung into action to clean up the mess.
Mumbai by no stretch of imagination is a safe city under normal circumstances. But during crisis, very few crimes were reported. Magically, crisis turned Mumbai into the safest city and epitome of brotherhood.
Aftermath : After a gap of 2 days, which was just enough for the water to recede, life was back to normal. This incident has almost faded from the public memory.
Earthquake, Tsunami resulting in nuclear radiation threat
Enough and more is written about this crisis. It is also well known that the crisis is still not over. Japan government is struggling to contain nuclear radiation, which barely 200km away from one of the most populous cities in the world.
What strikes me is the way the people and government has reacted to the crisis. More than 10,000 human lives are lost but I have not seen one drop of tear in the public media. The Japanese government is accused of not publicizing enough information about the crisis. By whom? Mostly western government or western media. I have not heard a complaint from Japanese people. Media was trying to sensationalize the crisis but they did not get enough ammunition. The videos which all of us saw were striking but we did not hear any Japanese family coming forward to share their woes with the world. The government, the public quietly went about resolving the crisis, reconstruction, get the loved ones home and started gathering food and water. One of my friends son, mere 5 year old, walked for 6 hours from his school to reach home after spending over 24 hours in the school. Did we see any such story on media, almost none. Almost immediately there was electricity outages in Tokyo but none complained. In spite of being one of the biggest natural catastrophe in recent times, in spite of being under glaring media, this is one of the most under-reported news. The Japanese government and people wanted it that way. People showed complete trust on the government, yet helped themselves out of the crisis. There was complete trust, cooperation to government agencies but almost no expectations nor over dependence.
Hurricane Katrina and Mumbai floods were completely different but what strikes me the people-government response. In Hurricane Katrina it was government Vs people; in Mumbai floods it was people minus government and in Tohoku earthquake it was people AND government. The Japanese have given world several world-class concept. Reaction to this crisis should go down as one more such practice the world can emulate.