Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, choking back tears,has announced that the city of New Orleans must beevacuated. In a press conference called half an hour ago,she described the situation as “untenable” and announcedthat everybody in all the rescue centers in the city wouldbe removed, as well as all residents and nonessentialgovernmental personnel.

Two levee breaches Tuesday have caused the city to fill withwater. The storm also burst a major water main, and NewOrleans is without drinkable water. The power is out and itcould be weeks before it is restored. The water filling thecity is full of garbage, the carcasses of drowned animals,and unknown quantities and types of toxic waste.

FEMA co-ordinating director Bill Lockley said that this was”the most significant disaster to hit the United States,”and that some FEMA employees would likely spend theremainder of their careers working on Katrina.

The agency is scrambling to locate shelter for an estimatedeight hundred thousand refugees, many of whom are occupyinghotels and motels as far away as San Antonio, Texas andAtlanta, Georgia. People are sheltering in every conceivableway, in their cars by the roadsides of the south, incampgrounds, in parking lots, churches that have thrown opentheir doors, local schools, anywhere they can find a placeto stay.

As the days wear on, the danger of disease from contaminatedwater will grow in the damaged areas, and the needs ofdisplaced persons will become acute. FEMA is scrambling tofind more permanent shelter, and is planning even to enlistcruise ships to provide places for refugees who may beunable to return home for months or even longer, to stay.

At present, storm watchers do not see any evidence ofadditional hurricanes, but with Gulf, Caribbean and SouthAtlantic waters continuing warmer than normal, there isevery expectation that more of the great storms are on theway. The season still has six weeks to run.

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