Most of the city is still officially uninhabitable. We and most other current New Orleanians live in what is sometimes known as The Sliver By The River, a section between the Mississippi River and St. Charles Avenue that didn't flood, as well as in the French Quarter and part of the Faubourg Marigny. In the "uninhabitable sections," there are hundreds of people living clandestinely in their homes with no lights, power, or (in many cases) drinkable water. They cannot afford generators or the gasoline it takes to run them, or if they have generators, they can only run them for part of the day. They cook on camp stoves and light their homes with candles or oil lamps at night.
Seven months later, most of the city is still uninhabitable.
Many parts of the city have had no trash pickup -- either FEMA or municipal -- for weeks. Things improved for a while, but now there are nearly as many piles of debris and stinking garbage as there were right after the storm.
This means the city is a public health and environmental disaster waiting to happen.
There is hardly any medical care in the city. As far as I know, only two hospitals and an emergency facility in the convention center are currently operating. Emergency room patients, even those having serious symptoms like chest pains, routinely wait eight hours or more to be seen by a doctor. We have, I believe, 600 hospital beds in a city whose population is approaching (and may have surpassed) 250,000.
You'd get better medical care in much of the third world.
Cadaver dogs and youth volunteers gutting houses are still finding bodies in the Lower Ninth Ward. Of course these corpses are just skeletons by now -- the other day they found a six-year-old girl with an older person, possibly a grandmother, located near her -- and they may never be identified. The bodies are hidden under debris piles and collapsed houses.
Seven months later and they're still finding bodies.
Like most non-locals, I thought much of this had been cleaned up. I'd expected the rubble had been bulldozed, the streets had been cleared, and the abandoned parts of town readied for reconstruction. That's a happy, optimistic, myth: an understanding of things as they should have been, not as they are.
FEMA, DHS, the State of Louisiana, and the city government of New Orleans all failed in September of last year; and they are continuing to fail, every day. Their failure is unnacceptable ... but nobody who has the power to do anything about it cares.
And that, perhaps, is the most depressing realization of the entire thing: an American city has been turned into a third-world hellhole, its government is incapable of fixing it, the federal government is incapable of fixing it, and nobody cares.
So much for modern fucking civilization.
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