By Ben Wisner (12 September 2005):
Katrina disaster diplomacy serves as a baseline for monitoring furture developments. For example, tensions around economic and trade issues are not singled out explicitly, instead mentioning "significant sources of
conflict or recent political disagreement." It would be good to look more closely at the kinds of geopolitical and economic conflicts subsumed in this general statement.
Also, one might ask if in the future such positive offers of assistance have any impact on the negotiating climate and resolution of such disputes and conflicts. This is a broader question (and one, of course, more difficult to answer) than simply whether assistance gestures are likely to be reciprocated.
Richard, A.C. 2006. Role Reversal: Offers of Help from Other Countries in Response to Hurricane Katrina and Reversión de Roles: Ofertas de Ayuda de Otros Países en
Respuesta al Huracán Katrina. Center for Transatlantic Relations, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
By Richard Ferring (12 September 2007):
Hurricane Katrina was one of the USA's most devastating recent disasters. Forming in late August 2005, the category one storm grew quickly to a dangerous category five hurricane as it travelled across the Gulf of Mexico before declining to category three when it made landfall into southern Louisiana. The hurricane breached the flood protection system causing the levees to fail and flood over 80% of New Orleans. The storm claimed at least 1,836 lives and caused over US$80 billion in damage to property in Louisiana.
The effects of Hurricane Katrina were immense. Federal disaster declarations spanned over 90,000 square miles. As well as the municipal buildings, bridges, and other properties that were destroyed, over 130,000 homes were damaged beyond repair. Immense amounts of raw sewage, petroleum products, and industrial waste were introduced into the environment. Perhaps the most overlooked danger was the release of asbestos particles into the air and water. Because many buildings and structures were built with asbestos due its ability to withstand fire and heat, asbestos was used commonly in the construction of many older buildings.
After Hurricane Katrina passed, thousands of people were exposed to the "toxic aftermath". Many people have, or will soon, experience the effects of this exposure. Several illnesses such as rashes, "noxious nausea", and respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis have and will continue to be prominent in the area.
Shortly after the news of the damage and loss of life were reported, people from many countries were seeking ways to assist those in need. CITGO Petroleum Corporation, a Venezuelan entity, sent their CEO Felix Rodriguez to Lake Charles, Louisiana to offer assistance. Rodriguez met with several state and federal officials and, to help with the relief effort, negotiated a donation of US$1 million, oil, food, and equipment coming from CITGO but on behalf of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
While some people donated money through various charities and organizations, others quickly travelled to the surrounding areas to assist with the clean up. Belgium sent several specialized teams to assist. Three medical teams consisting of 31 personnel, a diving team, and several engineering and logistics groups travelled thousands of miles to be present at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina will not soon be forgotten by the world. The social, environmental, industrial, and economic implications of the disaster will be felt long after the city of New Orleans is rebuilt. The dangers that the storm left behind were an imminent threat to the people around them; however, thanks to the help from several countries from around the world, they have been reduced. Pain and suffering knows no political or social boundaries. In times of need, people band together under one common trait: humanity.
By Shelly L. Bell (6 March 2008):
On the morning of 29 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina blew into southern Louisiana and quickly became the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. The hurricane's devastating storm surge was so powerful that it forever changed the coastline along the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The city of New Orleans was one of the hardest-hit areas. The violent storm surge destroyed the federal flood protection system and caused 53 separate levee breaches, which led to the flooding of more than 80 percent of the historic city.
Accountable for a minimum of $81.2 billion in damage, Hurricane Katrina is one of the costliest disasters in the history of the United States. The tempest and its aftermath claimed at least 1,836 lives and 705 are still missing—making it the deadliest hurricane since the Okeechobee Hurricane hit in 1928. Pure destruction made New Orleans both a dangerous and highly toxic place. Structural damage from the storm and the following cleanup efforts released serious toxins into the surrounding air and water. Plausible sources of pollutants included spills of volatile chemicals, leaks from industrial plants, and dust from building demolition, debris transport, and contaminated sediment, not to mention smoke from the open burning of debris. Because of its tremendous prevalence in the construction industry, one of the major contaminants of concern was asbestos. This concern is because of the fact that exposure can lead to multiple forms of asbestos cancer.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website on Hurricane Katrina, all structures (including residential and commercial) build before 1975 may hold "significant amounts of asbestos". The EPA also acknowledged that structures built after 1975 may also contain asbestos, as the toxic material was widely used through the eighties and remains in regulated use to this day. Unfortunately, thousands of people were exposed to the toxic brew in the aftermath of the storm. Many of these individuals have or will develop health issues from exposure to toxins like that of asbestos, which is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma cancer.
In the aftermath, the United States received a myriad of assistance offers from foreign states in the form of monetary support, supplies, medical professionals, and even contamination experts to aid in cleanup efforts. Despite the hazardous threat from toxins such as asbestos, many foreign countries, both known allies and adversaries, offered human resources to help in the aftermath. For example, Israel sent an 80-ton shipment of humanitarian aid, as well as a team of physicians, psychologists, trauma specialists, logistics experts, and search-and-rescue divers. The team arrived in New Orleans on 10 September and spent a week and a half providing much needed aid.
Numerous other countries offered human resources like that of Israel. In addition, monetary and oil offers amounted to $854 million. But according to an April 2007 article in the Washington Post, only $40 million has been used for survivors or reconstruction. More than two years later, the city of New Orleans is still dealing with hurricane-related debris and thousands of irreparable asbestos-contaminated homes. Unfortunately, a sense of normalcy has yet to be restored to New Orleans, and as cleanup efforts linger, so does the eminent risk for human exposure to asbestos and development of pleural mesothelioma. Despite philanthropic offers from both foreign friends and foes, money and time constraints continue to compromise cleanup efforts and safety concerning asbestos abatement.
Daan van der Linde (November 2008):
The Politics of Disaster: A Study into Post-Katrina International Aid. (842 kb in PDF). An additional note is that statements implying that Katrina was the first time that the U.S.A. needed, requested, or accepted international aid generally came from official and publicly available U.S.A. government documents. That statement is a short-term view of history, because some (non-Katrina) media sources suggest that the 1906 earthquake garnered millions of dollars of international aid, with the largest donor being Japan.
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