Intended for healthcare professionals


US government declares emergency after Hurricane Katrina

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 08 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:531
  1. Fred Charatan
  1. Florida

    After Hurricane Katrina hit east of New Orleans on Monday 29 August, the federal government declared a public health emergency for the US Gulf coast. But, as the city was eventually emptied a week later in the wake of the disaster, there was a second storm brewing—one of criticism of the Bush administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their slow response to Katrina's aftermath.

    Former US president Bill Clinton and Dr Bill Frist, Republican senator for Tennessee and a heart surgeon, called for an inquiry into what went wrong. Mr Clinton wanted a bipartisan commission to investigate “the government failing the people” with its slow response to the disaster.

    Wide breaches in the levees surrounding New Orleans, which the government said it had not anticipated, resulted in 80% of the city being sub-merged. Despite an emergency drill (Hurricane Pam) that was carried out last year, there was no follow-up or planning for a worst case scenario.

    Thousands of people suffered up to five days of squalor and deprivation of basic human needs like food and …

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