I, for one, never thought I would live to hear the word "refugees" used to describe residents of the United States. Typically, we're the country that accepts them from elsewhere in the world. But actually producing refugees? No, never. Not us.
But that is exactly how survivors of Katrina's rampage along the Gulf coast are now being described. An estimated 23,000 are now inside the Superdome, and they're about to be kicked out of there. According to the governor of Louisiana, those stuck inside the facility will be sent by bus to Houston, Texas, where they will be put up inside the 40 year old Astrodome.
Meanwhile, the mayor of New Orleans has now said that "thousands" may be dead. He based his estimate on the fact that many bodies remain floating in the water while rescue crews concentrate on saving survivors from rooftops. Meanwhile, with water depths approaching 20 feet in some parts of the city, it is feared that countless others were forced into their attics by the rising waters where they became trapped and drowned.
And that's just the estimate for New Orleans. The death toll in neighboring Mississippi officially stands at 110, but that is likely to rise substantially.
The Pentagon has now responded, sending several ships with rescue supplies and water filtration capability to the area. Additionally, military helicopters are plucking survivors off of rooftops with Navy SEAL rescue teams also assisting. The navy's hospital ship USNS Comfort is also enroute.
Again, this is the United States of America we're talking about here, not Bangladesh.
After taking all this in, I find myself trying to get my head around the fact that this storm actually weakened before hitting land. What the hell would have happened if Katrina had remained at category 5?