The federal government, by law, must build and maintain the Mississippi levees to withstand known dangers - or pay the price when they fail.
Indeed, that was the rule applied in the storms that hit Westhampton Dunes, New York, in 1992. There, when federal sea barriers failed, the flood waters wiped away 190 homes. The feds rebuilt them from the public treasury. But these were not just any homes. They are worth an average of $3 million apiece - the summer homes of movie stars and celebrity speculators.
There were no movie stars floating face down in the Lower Ninth Ward nor in Lakeview nor St. Bernard Parish. For the ‘luvvies’ of Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to replace the beaches. But for New Orleans’ survivors, there’s the aluminum gulag of FEMA trailer parts. Today, two years later, 89,000 families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo - with no plan whatsoever for their return.
And what was the effect of the White House’s self-serving delay?
I spoke with van Heerden in his university office. The computer model of the hurricane flashed quietly as I waited for him to answer. Then he said, “Fifteen hundred people drowned. That’s the bottom line.”
They could have survived Hurricane Katrina. But they got no mercy from Hurricane George.
For the rest of the story, get the DVD, “BIG EASY TO BIG EMPTY: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans,” as reported by Greg Palast from Louisiana for Democracy Now - with Amy Goodman and the music of “the city that care forgot.” Watch a clip on our Youtube page.
And read the full story of our investigation in the added chapter on New Orleans in the new paperback edition of “Armed Madhouse: from Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild.” Click here to donate to our Investigative Fund and receive a book signed by Greg Palast as a gift from us.
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