Surfing to a number of other Katrina-related blogs, I quickly realized I was wrong. No doubt a small number of people didn't leave New Orleans for those reasons, but they seem to be in the minority, judging by what relief organizations are saying. Apparently, almost everyone left in the city was too old, sick and/or poor to leave.
Check out a few websites with the evacuation plan for New Orleans. Listen closely for the voices telling you about the government buses taking people out of the city, about the evacuation efforts by the city, the state, the feds...
(sound of crickets)
The state trooper website for Louisiana contains numerous route maps on how to get out of town, but if you don't have a car, there are few options. Most of the people who faced the worst part of the storm were poor and a majority were black.
And now martial law has been declared to control rampant looting. Here's a recipe for civil order: take the poorest 10 to 20 per cent of the population of an already violent city. Add a major catastrophe. Take away electricity, drinkable water, and food. Add the fact that police are mostly busy pulling people off their roofs. Looting, you say? What a fucking surprise.
How much money does it cost to pluck people, one at a time, off of their rooftops with a helicopter? Compare total cost to the fuel, drivers and rental costs of using school, city and charter buses to offer anyone who wanted it a free ride out of the city. Not only is compassion better, it's a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run.
Here's a link to the rescue-worker e-mail, referenced on a number of websites and reproduced at boingboing.net.
And speaking of buses, now that a significant portion of the city's voting public might drown in the Superdome, they appear to be available. From CNN:
In New Orleans, authorities prepared Wednesday to evacuate about 25,000 displaced residents who've been stranded since Katrina struck and transport them to the Houston Astrodome.
Texas officials offered to open the giant, mostly disused domed stadium as a shelter for people displaced by the storm. (See the video of the governor's plan to help the stranded -- 3:09)
Most have been staying at the Louisiana Superdome, another domed stadium which was designated a refuge for people who could not evacuate the city before the storm roared ashore on Monday.