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Author Topic: New Orleans dead
wingco
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Not be morbid, or anything, and perhaps I've missed some grand series of announcements (which is unlikely because, as it happens, I am pretty morbid) but has there been any notification of the number of people officially known to have died in the New Orleans hurricane/flooding? Or is being treated as water under the bridge, so to speak . . .

[ 06.12.2005, 13:26: Message edited by: wingco ]

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The 7th Baron Bartok
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officially, 972. Don't know whether that just means the authorities decided it was too difficult to ascertain any further deaths though.
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Hieronymus Bosch
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If you lived in New Orleans and you wanted a particular individual dead, you'd never have a better opportunity again.
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Ginger Yellow
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Well, given that they just stopped counting, that number is highly reliable. I've been reading newspaper stories about people coming back to their homes in New Orleans and finding not just their possessions destroyed, but dead relatives.
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wingco
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I suppose I just find it extraordinary that, given the constant updating of numbers following the tsunami (and, of course, the Onion headline, "Tsunami Death Toll Rises To 20 American Dead"), that they simply stopped counting at a mere 972. It feels like there's a political component, as if to continue to keep a tally keeps the event, and its incompetent handling, in the public eye.
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Super Sharp Shooter
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I saw a Despatches a few weeks ago in which rescue workers on the ground were saying that there had been few deaths. Furthermore, they could find not a single person to actually go on record as having actually witnessed a rape, a murder, or so much as a fist fight in the dome. Only people who'd heard rumours.

The basic thrust of what they were saying was that a climate of fear was created very rapidly, when in fact the thing that was *really* making the city dangerous was the facts that a/ rescue workers weren't being sent in because of such rumours and b/ people weren't simply getting out of there due to rumpours of armed gangs roaming the streets.

I don't know what I think, but it did make me realise that the lack of hard factual data on the whole thing is truly staggering. We have such a blurred picture of it all.

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wingco
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I saw that programme too, but thought it was more about a gross over-estimation of the numbers of people looting, murdering and raping, rather than the number of people who actually died. I hope not as many did as one feared but just to give up counting strikes me as very suspect - as if to say, let's move on with the grand, amnesiac American narrative and pretend it never happened.
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Super Sharp Shooter
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What is this stopping counting thing? I haven't heard about this.
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Ginger Yellow
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The linked story mentions it, but doesn't really go into any detail. It was a mini-scandal at the time - CNN did a piece with an outraged reporter saying that whole neighbourhoods of the city hadn't been checked.
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wingco
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I was just referring back to GY's post above. I mean, perhaps that's venjecture on GY's part but it certainly appears to be what has happened, to all intents and purposes at any rate. As you say, the picture is blurred - but with so many unresolved issues, one would hope for a bit more focus.
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The 7th Baron Bartok
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"venjecture".

Great new composite word. Vengeful conjecture? Venomous conjecture? Or perhaps, with respect to GY's august status, venerable conjecture?

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wingco
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I could go back and correct it but I shall let it stand as a monument to the perils of too-speedy typing and too-scant rereading.
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Ginger Yellow
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August? I don't think so.

Here's the CNN story. It went out on November 15.
quote:
COOPER: Well, the death toll keeps rising.

You know, it's hard to imagine anything worse than coming back to your home in New Orleans and finding it completely destroyed. But, tonight, as you're about to hear, there is something worse, much worse. Dozens of families have returned to what is left of their homes and found, lying amidst the mold and the wreckage, a body, forgotten, abandoned. Maybe it's their mother or their grandmother, sometimes even their missing child.

The state called off searching house to house in New Orleans well over a month ago. They said they completed the job. Clearly, they have not. In tonight's "Keeping Them Honest," our daily segment devoted to New Orleans and the still devastated Gulf Coast, we try to find out who is to blame.

CNN's Rusty Dornin investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Susie Eaton (ph) worried her mother, Viola (ph), might have been stuck inside her house in the Ninth Ward when Hurricane Katrina hit. Eaton (ph), who lives in Florida, received a death certificate for the wrong person. Upset, she tried, but couldn't get answers from officials in New Orleans.

She ended up calling CNN and told us about her worst fears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My feelings are that my mother may be still in the house and she was not able to get out in time before the -- before the levee broke.

DORNIN: We volunteered to go to her mother's house to see what we could find.

(on camera): This is what's left of the block where Susie Eaton's (ph) mother lived. We have no idea exactly where the house was. But we did have the address. And we found her mailbox. When we called Eaton (ph), she said she was thankful to know that much, but still wonders what happened to her mother.

(voice-over): Two blocks from where Viola Eaton's (ph) house once stood, cadaver dogs continue to search underneath the piles of rubble.

The official search-and-rescue effort was called off October 3, but there was such a backlash, crews resumed searching demolished neighborhoods. They have cleared areas zip code by zip code.

There was no joy for Paul Murphy (ph) in this homecoming. When he walked into his house in New Orleans' Ninth Ward last month for the first time since Katrina, it was shock and anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I'm thinking that, OK, I was going to come and salvage a few pictures or something. And I walk in here. I found my grandma on the floor dead.

DORNIN: Since November 1, 10 bodies have been found in the ruins of the Ninth Ward. The last area, known as the Lower Ninth, will open to residents December 1. Coroner Frank Minyard worries about what people will find.

(on camera): You're fully expecting that more bodies will come in once they open the Ninth Ward?

FRANK MINYARD, ORLEANS PARISH CORONER: Yes. And I think it's -- it's going to come in for a good while. There's so much rubbish around that they might find people in the rubbish. DORNIN (voice-over): They already have. And there are still many bodies left unidentified and unclaimed.

MINYARD: We have 150 autopsies left to do, all on unidentified people. Hopefully, that -- that will help us identify that person, if we can find a pacemaker or an artificial hip or something. Then we're into DNA.

DORNIN: Susan Eaton (ph) asked if she could send a DNA sample and was told DNA samples were not being accepted. Nearly 80 days after Katrina, not one DNA test has been done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DORNIN: Now, there's been talk about conflicts among FEMA and the state about contracting a private lab. And then it was too expensive.

But when I spoke to a FEMA spokesperson tonight, they said they -- it is their number one priority to go ahead with the DNA testing of the people who have not yet been identified. They are trying to find -- decide whether they're going the use a military facility or use a private contractor.

Meantime, the coroner, Frank Minyard, told me that they were still trying to use dental records to -- to identify some people. But, of course, the dental records from the dental offices were destroyed, along with a lot of other records. So, people like Susie Eaton (ph) may not ever find out what happened to their loved ones, let alone get them identified -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, it's amazing that FEMA is still trying to decide this.

And -- and, all the while, not one person has been identified through DNA. I mean, that is just mind-boggling to me.

DORNIN: What I was told tonight was, DNA was to be the test of last resort, that they would use every means possible to try and do it other ways, with dental records and that sort of thing, and that the state coroner, Louis Cataldie, went in today and talked to the FEMA representatives and said, we have reached that last resort.

COOPER: Unbelievable.

DORNIN: We must do something as quickly as possible.

COOPER: Well, we pledged we would keep -- be keeping them honest there in New Orleans, holding the authorities to their promises. And one of the promises was that the dead would be identified and returned to their families as quickly as possible.

Earlier, I spoke to Saint Bernard Parish Sheriff Jack Stephens.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: You warned us October 3. When the state stopped house- to-house searching for -- for -- for the deceased, you said, it was a bad idea, that there were more people out there. Now the death toll, it turns out, has jumped by 104. And -- and families are returning to find the bodies of their loved ones still in their homes. How does -- it's got to infuriate you.

JACK STEPHENS, SAINT BERNARD PARISH SHERIFF: Well, you know, you just wonder what provoked that decision.

A month ago, we were still very much in the midst of a -- of a crisis. And the National Guard was conducting the house-to-house searches. And if you go through, Anderson, the neighborhoods right now that were searched then, a lot of them bear the mark of "N.E.," which means no entry.

I was always under the impression that there would be a hard- target search at some point following that to determine whether or not there were any casualties left in those dwellings. As of right now -- in fact, the day before yesterday, in my own jurisdiction, a family came home to discover a family member who had been reported missing.

COOPER: Oh, my God.

STEPHENS: It was a horrible -- it was a gruesome sight. Very -- and again, people don't deserve any more grief and pain than they're going through right now. I mean, this whole process has been so excruciatingly screwed up and slow that, I mean, you're starting to feel a real sense of anger and hostility on the part of people locally and, my God, it's well-deserved.

And it is almost impossible now to do identification on them. I mean, these bodies are so decomposed, you know, which leads to the next chapter of the story, and that is the horrible job that has been done at Saint Gabriel with respect to handling these bodies, identification and return of these casualties to their loved ones.

COOPER: That's an incredible story in and of itself. I mean, I know you've been publicly critical of the morgue over there in Saint Gabriel, and look, I'm sure the people there are working hard and God knows that the conditions they're probably working in, examining these bodies, has got to be horrific. But 874 bodies they've examined so far, only 238 of them have actually been released to the families. They haven't even done any DNA testing that has resulted in identification because the state is arguing with FEMA about who's supposed to pay for the DNA labs. I mean...

STEPHENS: Yes.

COOPER: ... it boggles the mind.

STEPHENS: It goes back to some level of incompetence or negligence on the part of government. And in my mind, I mean, we all bear some of the responsibility for this, but, I mean, people just have to be scratching their heads and wonder who's really in charge of this thing and why is it so disorganized? COOPER: Well, and it has got -- I mean, what has got to add to the frustration for you is thinking that the rest of the country has kind of moved on. Because, I mean, I walk around in New York and I talk to people and no one seems to be talking about this.

STEPHENS: This was the largest disaster to strike the United States since the Civil War, and that's natural or man-made. And when you think about that, and start to think about the scope and breadth of the destruction caused by this weather event, it's hard to imagine that the Congress and the rest of the country is ignoring us.

But, you know, this is another thing I predicted a month or six weeks ago. When the lights went down and the other stories were hot and people's attention were diverted, that basically, we were going to be neglected here. But I'll tell you what, people are really disillusioned and disappointed by the response to this whole event. We continue to be.

COOPER: Yes.

STEPHENS: But, you ,know the encouraging thing is over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a new resolve by the people in the metropolitan area. They know now that any help we get from outside is basically going to be just like finding money on the ground.

COOPER: A New Orleans police officer said to me while I was down there last time, and I have got a lot of respect for New Orleans Police, he said to me, you know what, a month from now people are going to be sitting around in New Orleans, they're going to say -- you know, neighbors are going to be sitting around in neighborhoods and say, you know, whatever happened to Old Joe? Where did Old Joe go? And no one will know what happened to him because his house will have been bulldozed and in all likelihood, his body is still going to be inside there and it is going to be bulldozed and just buried in some pit and some people are just going to disappear.

STEPHENS: The point needs to be made that in some cases entire family histories have been wiped out. And that's not just documents or pictures, that includes family members who will never be accounted for. And that's an ongoing tragedy and something we have to live with, and certainly in a country as rich and powerful as the United States, we shouldn't have to settle for that.

COOPER: It's pretty shocking to find out there are still people in their homes being discovered by people returning home. Sheriff Stephens, it is good to talk to you. Appreciate you being on the program.

STEPHENS: Thank you, Anderson.


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