Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Warnings went ignored as Bush slashed flood defence budget to pay for wars

Vital measures to protect New Orleans from "catastrophic" hurricane damage were scrapped by the Bush administration to pay for its wars on terror and in Iraq, despite official warnings of impending disaster.
Funding for flood prevention was slashed by 80 per cent, work on strengthening levees to protect the city was stopped for the first time in 37 years, and planning for housing stranded citizens and evacuating refugees from the Superdome were crippled. Yet the administration had been warned repeatedly of the dangers by its own officials.
In early 2001, at the start of Mr Bush's presidency, his Government's Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) warned that a hurricane hitting New Orleans would be the deadliest of the three most likely catastrophes facing America; the others were a massive San Francisco earthquake and, prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York.
Fema's then director, the Bush appointee Joe Allbaugh, said that the warning caused him "great concern". But the President emasculated the agency, subsuming it into the Department of Homeland Security set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which concentrated on the terrorist threat.
This was only one of a series of warnings that predicted what happened last week, including the storm surges brought by the hurricane, the breaching of the levees, the floods covering the city, and the "toxic gumbo" of sewage, oil and chemicals.

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