Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

02.21 Roads to nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality [the cure is not more of the same]

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

02.25 The terrifying phenomenon that is pushing species towards extinction

02.24 In 'Tremendous Victory for Taxpayers, Public Health, and Planet,' Federal Court Rejects Trump Admin.'s Attempt to Suspend Methane Rule

02.24 Weatherwatch: floating windfarms prove their worth

02.23 In the Trump Administration, the Polluters Are in Control

02.22 Standing Rock is everywhere: one year later

02.22 Red Cloud’s Revolution: Oglalla Sioux Freeing Themselves From Fossil Fuel [making an "engine for good" that creates good jobs & products enabling the tribe to cut or eliminate polluting fossil-power utility bills]

02.21 Newborn survival rates in US only slightly better than in Sri Lanka [caused by highest-profit, non-universal healthcare and the political war against Planned Parenthood pre-natal care by willfully ignorant Republicans]

02.21 Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America

02.21 Climate change 'will push European cities towards breaking point'

02.20 'Much work needed' to make digital economy environmentally sustainable

02.20 'Sloppy and careless': courts call out Trump blitzkrieg on environmental rules [what happens when good judges are replaced with Trump-judges?]

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

02.25 Democrats defend Russia inquiry in response to Republicans' Nunes memo

02.25 The Frat House of Representatives [ubiquitous lying and corruption]

02.25 Robert Mueller’s Distinctly American Indictments [ubiquitous lying and corruption]

02.24 Demanding 'Fundamental Restructuring of the Economy,' Progressives Embrace Bold New Agenda

02.24 'Corruption, Plain and Simple': Public Comments Show Outrage at CFPB's Corporate Turn Under Mulvaney

02.24 Fears grow as rightwing billionaires battle to erode US union rights

02.23 California agriculture sees 'chilling, damaging effect' from wave of immigration audits

02.23 Where Gun-Control Advocates Could Win in 2018

02.23 White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers [2:03 video; Trump proposes what gun manufacturers and NRA want rather than confiscating assault weapons that Australia has proven works]

Justice Matters

02.23 Robert Mueller files 32 new fraud charges against ex-Trump aides

02.22 Paul Manafort got $16 million in loans after the election. Mueller finds that very interesting.

High Crimes?

02.23 Medical crisis in east Ghouta as hospitals 'systematically targeted' [war crimes continue – why are the UN and ICC so ineffective in stopping this and similar horrors?]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

02.22 Trump’s Bogus Infrastructure Plan Takes the U.S. Further Down the Road of Rentier Capitalism

02.22 Plundering the Planet: Coca-Cola And Nestlé To Privatize The Largest Reserve Of Water In South America [When the public is ignored for profits, THIS is what could go wrong]

International & Futurism

02.25 Mueller investigation: Manafort accused of secretly funding European pro-Russia group

02.25 UN security council votes unanimously for month-long Syria ceasefire [why not a permanent ceasefire, have war crimes trials and then hangings!]

02.23 The fairest of them all: why Europe beats the US on equality

02.21 Netanyahu aide agrees to implicate PM over corruption claims – reports

02.21 Netherlands becoming a narco-state, warn Dutch police [instead of a totally criminal solution, why not develop safer, non-addictive prescription drugs to put dangerous narcotics gangs out of business]

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Hurricane Expert Threatened For Pre-Katrina Warnings
Newspaper logo

REPORT:

Hurricane Expert Threatened For Pre-Katrina Warnings

by GREG PALAST
Funny thing about the murderously failed plan for the evacuation of New Orleans: no one can find it. That's right. It's missing.
Monday, August 28. From New Orleans--Don't blame the Lady. Katrina killed no one in this town. In fact, Katrina missed the city completely, going wide to the east.

It wasn't the hurricane that drowned, suffocated, de-hydrated and starved 1,500 people that week. The killing was done by a deadly duo: a failed emergency evacuation plan combined with faulty levees. Behind these twin failures lies a tale of cronyism, profiteering and willful incompetence that takes us right to the steps of the White House.

Here's the story you haven't been told. And the man who revealed it to me, Dr. Ivor van Heerden, is putting his job on the line to tell it.

Van Heerden isn't the typical whistleblower I usually deal with. This is no minor player. He's the Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center. He's the top banana in the field -- no one knew more about how to save New Orleans from a hurricane's devastation. And no one was a bigger target of an official and corporate campaign to bury the information.

Here's what happened. Right after Katrina swamped the city, I called Washington to get a copy of the evacuation plan.

Funny thing about the murderously failed plan for the evacuation of New Orleans: no one can find it. That's right. It's missing. Maybe it got wet and sank in the flood. Whatever: no one can find it.

That's real bad. Here's the key thing about a successful emergency evacuation plan: you have to have copies of it. Lots of copies -- in fire houses and in hospitals and in the hands of every first responder. Secret evacuation plans don't work.

I know, I worked on the hurricane evacuation plan for Long Island New York, an elaborate multi-volume dossier.

Specifically, I'm talking about the plan that was written, or supposed to have been written two years ago, by a company called "Innovative Emergency Management."

Weird thing about IEM: their founder Madhu Beriwal, had no known experience in hurricane evacuations. She did, however, have a lot of experience in donating to Republicans.

IEM and FEMA did begin a draft of a plan. The plan was that, when a hurricane hit, everyone in the Crescent City would simply get the hell out in their cars. Apparently, the IEM/FEMA crew didn't know that 127,000 people in the city didn't have cars. But Dr. van Heerden knew that. It was his calculation. LSU knew where these no-car people were -- they mapped it -- and how to get them out.

Dr. van Heerden offered this life-saving info to FEMA. They wouldn't touch it. Then, a state official told him to shut up, back off or there would be consequences for van Heerden's position. This official now works for IEM.

So I asked Dr. van Heerden what happened as a result of making no plans for those without wheels, a lot of them elderly and most of them poor.

"Fifteen-hundred of them drowned. That's the bottom line." The professor, who'd been talking to me in technicalities, changed to a somber tone. "They're still finding corpses."

Van Heerden is supposed to keep his mouth shut. He won't. The deaths weigh on him. "I wasn't going to listen to those sort of threats, to let them shut me down."

Van Heerden had other disturbing news. The Hurricane Center's computer models showed the federal government had built the levees around the city a foot-and-a-half too short.

After Katrina, the Hurricane Center analyzed the flooding and found that, had the levees had just that extra 18 inches, they would have been "overtopped" for only an hour and a half, not four hours. In that case, the levees would have held, and the city would have been saved.

He had taken the warning about the levees all the way to George Bush's doorstep. "I myself briefed senior officials including somebody from the White House." The response: the university's trustees threatened his job.

While in Baton Rouge, I dropped in on the headquarters of IEM, the evacuation contractors. The assistant to the CEO insisted they had "a lot of experience with evacuation" -- but couldn't name a single city they'd planned for when they got the Big Easy contract. And still, they couldn't produce the plan.

An IEM press release in June 2004 boasted legendary expert James Lee Witt as a member of their team. That was impressive. It was also a lie. In fact, Witt had nothing to do with it. When I asked IEM point-blank if Witt's name was used as a fraudulent hook to get the contract, their spokeswoman said, weirdly, "We'll get back to you on that."

Back at LSU, van Heerden astonished me with the most serious charge of all. While showing me huge maps of the flooding, he told me the White House had withheld the information that, in fact, the levees were about to burst and by Tuesday at dawn the city, and more than a thousand people, would drown.

Van Heerden said, "FEMA knew on Monday at 11 o'clock that the levees had breached... They took video. By midnight on Monday the White House knew. But none of us knew ...I was at the State Emergency Operations Center." Because the hurricane had missed the city that Monday night, evacuation effectively stopped, assuming the city had survived.

"The City That Care Forgot" -- that's their official slogan -- lost a higher percentage of homes than Berlin lost in World War II.
It's been a full year now, and 73,000 New Orleanians remain in FEMA trailers and another 200,000, more than half the city's former residents, remain in temporary refuges. "The City That Care Forgot" -- that's their official slogan -- lost a higher percentage of homes than Berlin lost in World War II. It would be more accurate to call it, "The City That Bush Forgot."

Should they come home? Rebuild? Is it safe? Team Bush assures them there's nothing to worry about: FEMA won't respond to van Heerden's revelations. However, the Bush Administration has hired a consulting firm to fix the failed evacuation plan. The contractor? A Baton Rouge company named "Innovative Emergency Management." IEM.
Greg Palast is the author of the just-released New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War, from which is adapted. Go to www.GregPalast.com.

This investigative report about Katrina was broadcast by Democracy Now! and can be found on the program's web site. Palast's hour-long special report, "Who Drowned New Orleans?," will be broadcast on LinkTV and can be accessed via Direct TV channel 375 and Dish TV channel 9410.

Other principals who helped produce the Palast report include : Matt Pascarella, Executive Producer; Jacquie Soohen, Co-Producer, Filmographer & Editor; and Leni von Eckardt, Zach Roberts & Christy Speicher, Coordinating Producers.

At the end of the press release, the following information has been added: "James Lee Witt Associates was a member of the original team, but did not participate in the project."




Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on August 28, 2006.
 

Public Service Ads: