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Hurricane Katrina: FEMA Turned Away Aid, Rescue Crews, Cut Emergency Communication Lines: Witnesses
Agency draws ire of frustrated volunteers and donors
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, several witnesses have alleged that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) turned away volunteers who were ready to help New Orleans residents people trapped in their flooded homes. Other witnesses have said that FEMA turned away offers of aid, prevented water and fuel from reaching people on the ground, and cut emergency communications lines.
The agency has cited security and safety concerns.
On September first, Sheriff’s deputies and emergency personnel from Loudon County, Virginia, responded to a request from Jefferson Parrish in Louisiana for aid and set off towards the disaster area on the Gulf Coast. According to the Loudon Times-Mirror, “Sheriff Steve Simpson and his staff spent 12 hours trying to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Louisiana Emergency Operations Center to act.”
“They didn’t, and the 20 deputies and six emergency medical technicians–all volunteers–turned around and came back to Loudoun.”
According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, “up to 500 airboat pilots” volunteered to help rescue flood victims. “We cannot get deployed to save our behinds,” Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the Florida Airboat Association, was quoted as saying. He added that the boaters, who spent thousands of dollars stocking their boats to help in the rescue effort, “are physically sick, watching the New Orleans coverage and knowing that the resources to help these poor people is sitting right in our driveways.”
However, the report said, “[FEMA] will not authorize the airboaters to enter New Orleans. Without that permission, they would be subject to arrest and would not receive security and support services.”
According to a FEMA official, it’s a matter of security. “Right now, private citizens trying to go into those impacted areas are more hindrance than help.”
For other eyewitness reports, however, explanations are not forthcoming. In a televised interview with CNN’s Meet the Press, for example, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said that “we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, ‘Come get the fuel right away.’ When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. ‘FEMA says don’t give you the fuel.'”
Broussard also said that FEMA cut “all of our emergency communication lines.”
“They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, ‘No one is getting near these lines.'”…