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Disaster Violence

Campus Progress ran one of their “Ask the Expert” features on the media and disasters, The Looting Lie. Basically the media sets up a self-fulfilling prophesy by talking up the possibility of violence at some disasters, not others, and then reporting anything that seems to fit their narrative, even if it’s a rumor.

I’ve been in a few hurricane disasters, and there has certainly been looting and violence take place. Greed overcomes common decency, and people snap after putting up with extended periods of pressure. I doubt that anyone who isn’t from this area has even heard of our problems after hurricanes, because the cases take a while to go through the court system and aren’t very exciting. It’s part of the package of living in a hurricane prone area.

Everyone thinks that Katrina had extraordinary amounts of both, but once the hype died, New Orleans had a good deal less crime during and after Katrina, than normal. The only verified looting I actually heard reported was by a wealthy doctor who waited too long to evacuate, and while stranded broke into a pharmacy to get antibiotics. I know about it, because he said he did it on NPR, but he didn’t see it as “looting”, just a necessary precaution. After all, his platinum credit cards weren’t working and there was no one to staff the drug store, so it was OK for him to burglarize the store and steal the drugs. Only poor people are looters, not wealthy doctors. 😈

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January 17, 2010   5 Comments

Logistics

All of the aid problems being experienced in Haiti are caused by logistics, and the logistical problems are caused by the destruction of the infrastructure.

First a little geography. Port au Prince is about 200 miles from Guantanamo, 400 miles from San Juan, Puerto Rico, 700 miles from Miami. It only has one airport capable of accepting reasonably sized cargo aircraft.

Some people talk about using the Dominican Republic, but its airport has a shorter runway, and the two southern roads that connect Haiti and the Dominican Republic can best be described as tertiary. With continuing aftershocks, the northern road through the mountains is probably not a good choice as it may be blocked with rock slides. The southern road to not paved all the way, and is a narrow two-line road at best.

The US Coast Guard did the initial survey, and determined that there was one, undamaged, runway at the Port au Prince airport, but the control tower was unusable; and the port facilities were destroyed. As a result, the US Southern Command sent a AFSOC Special Tactics team to reopen the airport, and started an amphibious assault group toward the area. Initial aid was shifted to the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, because it could off-load its supplies with helicopters.

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January 17, 2010   4 Comments