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Aid to Superdome blocked

Posted by Richard on September 8, 2005

Fox News reporter Major Garrett reported this afternoon that the Red Cross was ready to truck food, water, and other relief supplies into the Superdome immediately after the storm had passed (that would be Monday afternoon, although the story wasn’t clear about the timing). They were prevented from doing so by the Louisiana State Office of Homeland Security because the state officials thought taking supplies to the people at the Superdome would just encourage more people to go there.

Think about the insanity of this for a moment. On Sunday, after Bush urged them to make the evacuation mandatory, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin held a joint press conference announcing just that. At that press conference, they told the citizens watching and listening that, as a last resort, they should come to the Superdome instead of staying in their homes. Tens of thousands did just that. So a day or so later, state officials wouldn’t let supplies in because it might encourage more people to do what the Governor and Mayor had urged them to do. 

Garrett said his information came from people at the highest levels of the Red Cross and that there was no doubt in their minds whatsoever that their trucks would have headed for the Superdome if state officials hadn’t prohibited it. Even after the levees broke (Tuesday), reporters were able to drive at least close to the Superdome, reaching the crowds who took refuge on an elevated section of I-10.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt interviewed Major Garrett on his radio show, and Radio Blogger now has the transcript. Here are a couple of the key exchanges:

HH: You just broke a pretty big story. I was watching up on the corner television in my studio, and it’s headlined that the Red Cross was blocked from delivering supplies to the Superdome, Major Garrett. Tell us what you found out.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They’re not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdom, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuaees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don’t I see that?

HH: And the answer is?

MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state’s homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

HH: Of course they are. Now Major Garrett, what about the Louisiana governor’s office of Homeland Security. Have they responded to this charge by the Red Cross, which is a blockbuster charge?

MG: I have not been able to reach them yet. But, what they have said consistently is, and what they told the Red Cross, we don’t want you to come in there, because we have evacuees that we want to get out. And if you come in, they’re more likely to stay. So I want your listeners to follow me here. At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans was screaming where’s the food, where’s the water, it was over the overpass, and state officials were saying you can’t come in.

HH: How long would it have taken to deliver those supplies, Major Garrett, into the Superdome and possibly the convention center?

MG: That is a more difficult question to answer than you might think. There were areas, obviously, as you approached the Superdome, that were difficult to get to, because of the flood waters. And as the Red Cross explained it to me, look. We don’t have amphibious vehicles. We have trucks and ambulance type vehicles. In some cases, after the flood waters rose as high as they did, we would have needed, at minimal, the Louisiana National Guard to bring us in, or maybe something bigger and badder, from the Marines or Army-type vehicle. They’re not sure about that. But remember, Hugh, we were transfixed, I know I was. I’m sure you were and your listeners were, by my colleague, Shep Smith, and others on that overpass.

HH: Right.

MG: …saying, wait a minute. We drove here. It didn’t take us anything to drive here.

HH: Right.

MG: Why can’t people just come here?

HH: I also have to conclude from what you’re telling me, Major Garrett, is that had they been allowed to deliver when they wanted to deliver, which is at least a little bit prior to the levee, or at least prior to the waters rising, the supplies would have been pre-positioned, and the relief…you know, the people in the Superdome, and possibly at the convention center, I want to come back to that, would have been spared the worst of their misery.

MG: They would have been spared the lack of food, water and hygiene. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they would not have been spared the indignity of having nor workable bathrooms in short order.

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