Friday, September 16, 2005

Rosy re-estimates of death toll meet the grim reality

The rosy rollback of a high death count is giving way to a grim reality as recovery workers get into the NOLA'S hardest hit neighborhoods, NOLA.Com/T-P reports.

Tentative optimism that New Orleans’ death toll from Katrina might be far lower than first projected has given way to somber reality over the past 36 hours as search and rescue squad turn up bodies by the dozen in the hardest hit areas of the city.

By mid-afternoon Friday, the black triangles used to designate human remains were multiplying on an emergency command center map. Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue squad liaison Charles Hood said a spike in discoveries Friday has started to take an emotional toll on rescue workers.

“Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains,” Hood said. “We’re just now getting into the areas that experienced the most rapid inundation.”

Large chunks of the city, including parts of Gentilly, the Desire-Florida area and Upper 9th Ward, have revealed tell-tale signs that the two breaches of the London Avenue Canal led to a rapid rush of floodwater that caught scores of residents off-guard. The surprise factor was only worsened in that the fast-rising water, more than 12 feet in spots, came well after the storm had passed.

What is not clear is whether the death toll is being accurately reported. Early reports from Jefferson Parish indicated the official death toll was only 10% of the number of bodies found (see "What holocaust" below).

The current toll of the "official dead" is 579 for Orleans Parish from a story posted by today. By the time I finish typing this sentence, even the artificially reduced death toll will have surpased Camille. If FEMA is under reporting the official death toll by as much as 90% as indicated, it it well on it's way to surpassing the Galveston storm of 1900.

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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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