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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Death Outside the Spotlight

For all the horror in New Orleans, it’s been clear that Katrina’s impact was actually more intense in suburban and rural areas south and east of the city, where the populations have largely been cut off from contact with the outside world, including the news media. Here’s an especially harrowing report from St. Bernard Parish, published tonight in the Times-Picayune newsblog. Note the time lines in this report; how much of this tragedy occurred well after Katrina left the area; and the implied reproach to non-existent federal help.

About 100 people have died at the Chalmette Slip after being pulled off their rooftops, waiting to be ferried up the river to the West Bank and bused out of the flood ravaged area, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, D-Napoleonville, said Thursday.About 1,500 people were at the slip on Thursday afternoon, where critical supplies like food and water are scarce, he said. Melancon expressed serious frustration with the slow pace of getting these items to the people waiting to finish their journey to safety. Many of those at the slip were evacuated from a shelter set up at Chalmette High School that suffered massive flooding as the waters rose during Hurricane Katrina. Melancon said people are being plucked out of their water-surrounded houses, but the effort to get them out of Chalmette and provide them with sufficient sustenance is the problem.While he did not directly criticize the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Melancon said they are ultimately responsible for making sure that people are taken care of. “That is where the buck stops,” said Melancon at a briefing at the state Office of Emergency Preparedness.People at the slip indicated that 100 people had died since they arrived, although Melancon said he did not know how they perished. Melancon said he saw 300 people sent on a tug-boat pulled barge to the Algiers landing, but there weren’t any buses once they landed.

We’re just now beginning to come to grips with the region-wide death toll, and how much of it might have been avoided with a massive and immediate federal response.

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