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Hurricane Irene: A mini Katrina?

DOSHON FARAD Special to the AmNews | 9/21/2011, 3:54 p.m.
It has been reported that the city of Paterson, N.J., specifically its First Ward, was...
New Jerseyans soaked by Irene

It has been reported that the city of Paterson, N.J., specifically its First Ward, was hit the hardest by Irene. One could assert that the parallels between this story and the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe are frightening, to say the least.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, leaving in its trail floods, destroyed property, displaced residents and over 1,800 dead bodies.

The area that was hit the worse by this calamity was the city of New Orleans and the surrounding communities. The New Orleans area had a death toll of 1,577 people. However, according to Wikipedia, 135 people still remain missing in Louisiana, and many of the deaths are indirect. Thus, it is virtually impossible to determine the cause of some of the deaths.

Katrina left thousands of people without homes. When the storm first hit, over 26,000 people were evacuated into the Louisiana Superdome, where the city government provided them with food and water for several days as the storm touched down. Several thousand others had to be relocated out of state.

The storm surge also devastated the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, making Katrina the most destructive, costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, as well as the deadliest hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. Government sources say the total damage from Katrina is estimated at $81.2 billion, nearly double the cost of the previous most expensive storm, Hurricane Andrew.

The property and economic damage in New Orleans caused by the storm had lingering affects. Many residents, including those who traveled to New Orleans, still say that the damage is not fully repaired. To this very day, there are still hundreds of homeless and displaced residents who were Hurricane Katrina victims.

The federal government's handling of the crisis drew intense national criticism for what many residents and human rights organizations felt was its apparent indifference to the plight of the area's hurricane victims.

The Bush administration was accused of being too slow in responding and sending federal aid to the residents of New Orleans, who are predominantly Black and poor. However, it was reported that the wealthier white residents of the town and surrounding areas were responded to almost immediately during and after the hurricane.

The Bush administration strongly denied charges that it offered aid to victims based on race and class. However, denial of such claims did very little to alleviate the suspicions of critics and human rights organizations. The situation sparked a national debate concerning race, class and survival in America-and how the federal government responds to catastrophes.

On Aug. 29-ironically, the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast-Hurricane Irene devastated the Eastern Seaboard. This storm resulted in the loss of six lives and, similar to the aforementioned calamity, left floods and caused the destruction of many properties.

Paterson, N.J., was hit particularly hard by Irene. Residents, rescuers and city officials have reported that during and after the hurricane, the First Ward was almost completely under water.

The Amsterdam News traveled around the city's First Ward, with a relief team coordinated by People Organized Working for Empowerment and the Rebuilding of our communities (POWER).