Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Updated: September 19th and 20th
Location: A levee overlooking the Mississippi River from Algiers

So many people continue to ask what we need here in Algiers. It's ever changing, but these are some of the key items:
-Lots of tarps (and we need them now)
-Tools including leatherman tools
-Alcohol Swabs
-Hammer and Nails
-Non-deet bug spray
Please send to Common Ground, P.O. Box 3216, Gretna, LA 70054

An unidentifed military source told us that the military is using the Hurricane Rita situation to pull troops out of New Orleans and return to their bases.

"We are spread to thin. We are moving out," a young soldier told us. Convoys of soldiers are heading out of town. Many thanks to the certain individuals who raided FEMA warehouses to provide us extra supplies.

The Red Cross has decided to change their name to Invisible Cross due to the fact that no one can seem to find them. Apparently they've been doing something in Algiers, though I'm not sure what. But they leave tomorrow to follow the military to Baton Rouge so who knows when they will be seen again - literally.

In just a few days I might walk out into the hot, humid morning and find a red sky. You know the old mariner's proverb, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor's take warning." Hurricane Rita may be on the way, and we have begun planning for our contingency actions should we find ourselves in the storm's path. Check out Common Ground on the web at http://www.commongroundrelief.org for the latest details.

So many of the houses and buildings which withstood Katrina may fall even under a less powerful hurricane. Storm drains are still clogged in some sections, and heavy rains will cause flooding and the possible collapse of levy systems if the pumps go down. We are also planning how to get out aid to other communities as soon as possible. Whatever the problem, we have a contingency plan to address it.

When people arrive at Common Ground in Algiers they find that they are doing all kinds of things, from unloading trucks, to distributing supplies, to cleaning storm drains, or volunteering in the clinic. This isn't the place to come and just hang out because it's "cool" or you will be shown the door. This morning I found myself at a large house fire, busting out windows and looking for people who needed to be pulled out. It felt like just another part of any other day here. Strange.

With greater capacity we are extending our reach by supplying grassroots relief efforts in the downtown area and 9th Ward of New Orleans. We are also working in mutual aid with the Pointe Aux Chien Native American community south of New Orleans in the bayou. We have also performed scouting runs into other sections of the Louisiana bayou and parts of Mississippi.

On Wednesday, we are going to slide a shipment of supplies into Waveland (near Gulfport), MS before Rita gets much closer. Waveland is a sad example of the criminal Federal response effort. FEMA, wanting people to leave, closed two relief shelters in Waveland. So now hundreds of people are camped out on rubble, trying to save their homes and sense of place. Food Not Bombs has been there feeding over a thousand people every day. One storm survivor traveled 200 miles to find diabetic foods there. Common Ground is sending a relief van tommorow to offer resupply and assess ongoing medical needs. .

Common Ground has begun independent environmental testing in several of the most devasted neighborhoods. The highlight of the day was an open oil drum located in a ditch behind some houses. For some reason, I didn't hear about this on the nightly news. Hmm. More samples will be taken tommorow.

Also, word out of the bayou parishes indicates several oil tanks were breached and an environmental disaster is occurring. It has been called an oil spill on par with the Exxon Valdez in Alasks. Hadn't really seen that one on the news either. #*@&$#

A drug store in West Jefferson that is charging residents for prescriptions in violation of a FEMA act providing for free emergency prescriptions. This same pharmacist has hired gun-toting thugs and openly carries a gun himself. Bungled prescriptions and dispensing of unlabled bottles have also been observed at this location.


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