"In a state of emergency, you are creative, you figure out ways to get stuff done. They told me they went overnight and they built 17 concrete structures and the pulleys on them and were going to drop them, I flew over that thing yesterday and it's in the same shape that it was after the storm hit. There is nothing happening, and they're feeding the public a line of bull, and they're spinning, and people are dying down here."--Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans
We've been on disaster standby all week. The facility where I work is part of a regional disaster relief network, so when Katrina hit, we assumed we'd be getting a load of folks from University Hospital and Charity, the two hardest-hit hospitals in New Orleans. Tulane has the only working helipad, so we kind of figured that everybody would be boated or crawler-ed over to Tulane, then airlifted out.
So we waited. And waited. And nobody came. Not a trickle, much less a flood. One of the other hospitals in town got six patients rather than the 80 they were expecting. Which struck me as strange, until I heard an interview with a doctor at University on NPR yesterday.
There is very little food and potable water left at any of the hospitals. There has been no power for four or five days, and no flush toilets. They've taken to storing corpses in the stairwells. They're out of medications--not just code meds, but things like insulin and pressors.
And the doctor said he had been watching National Guard crawlers and boats go past all week. They're half a mile or so from the NG staging center, but there has been no concerted effort to evacuate the hundreds of patients in the two hospitals. Volunteers are taking people with critical injuries and so on in their own fishing boats to Tulane, but that's it.
Cell phones have finally started working again--if your batteries haven't gone dead. The administrators of our disaster planning group have been getting really scary phone calls and text messages from the people still stuck in hospitals in NOLA. There are nurses and doctors getting sick with E. coli and Giardia. They're out of alcohol. People are simply up and dying without medications to save their lives.
The National Guard has shifted its focus from search and rescue to shooting to kill when they find looters. The crawlers are passing the hospitals on the way to restore law and order.