HR Out Front on Katrina’s Casualties

Friday, September 9th, 2005 10:37 pm by Neal

I’m late on HR’s latest note which arrived this past Wednesday, Sept. 7. I’ll be more timely from now on, I promise.

It’s strange I haven’t seen any realistic estimates of the number of deaths from
Katrina. Before the storm it seems like I heard a number of 50,000 deaths in New
Orleans if the levies broke. The wildman mayor of New Orleans said today there
would be 10,000 casualties in New Orleans, but I think he’s just blowing smoke for
the press. There have been occasional reports for counties outside N.O. of numbers
in the 50-100 range. The mainstream media is in a mass feeding frenzy trying to
destroy Bush so it’s been hard to believe anything they say that is not hard data.
The situation reminds of the widely quoted figure of 100,000 casualties caused by
the American intervention in Iraq.

We’ll never really know that number, but it is politically expedient for the Bush
haters to push as big a number as possible. Someday pretty soon though the search
and rescue operations will be over on the Gulf coast, and we’ll know the human cost
in deaths of Katrina.

It’s my guess that once we hear real numbers they are going to be much lower that
current estimates and past projections. Almost all the people in the press and the
local politicians have an incentive to inflate the numbers as much as possible as
long it helps to outrage people about Bush’s supposed failures. As long as the heat
is on Bush, and big casualty numbers help keep the heat on, then the local leaders
are going to push big numbers with reports about all the bodies just waiting to be
found. I just don’t believe a huge number of bodies are still to be found after
days of searching.

Here’s my blue sky guess, and I could be entirely too optimistic. When the numbers
do come in I believe the total casualties from the storm and subsequent flood will
be in the range of 1,000 to 3,000. I would quess that there is about a 30-40 %
chance the toll will be higher and a smaller chance that it could even be lower.
Since everyone has been bitterly complaining about the delay in getting a handle on
the situation in New Orleans, I wonder how many more lives could have been saved in
the highly unlikely case that rescue operations on this scale had gone perfectly;
probably not very many. Of course some political concerns would like to inflate
this particular number as much as posssible.

If casualty figures turn out to be lower than convential wisdom then what does this
say about Katrina. It says to me that the hurricane was an enormous natural force
that caused a truly horrible disaster, but things could have turned out so much
worse. We were lucky the storm weakened and turned slightly east so that the
northeast eye wall didn’t hit NO directly. There is some chance that a true head-on
hit by a Cat 5 storm might have destroyed the Super Dome or the Covention Center or
other places of refuge. If the places of refuge had been destroyed by the storm,
and the levies completely overwhelmed by a more intense storm surge so that the
flood was a fast innudation like what the Missississippi coast experienced then
there might have been tens of thousand of deaths in New Orleans. Another what-if:
What if 80% of the people had not evacuated, especially along the Missississippi
coast? Or what if the federal response had been delayed another few days so that
diesease, true starvation, and mass rioting had broken out in N.O.

It would be nice if we got real facts and realistic talk instead of overblown
emotional talk from the big news agencies in this country, but we just have to make
do with our own guessing when they don’t dig in and get the true story.

Well said, and earlier than most observers.

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