Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Natalie solent posted in full an e-mail I sent her as part of a thread speculating why there was so much lawlessness after the catastrophe in New Orleans, and talking about what went wrong during and after the Kobe earthquake of 1995.

One thing I did not mention that is obviously a key factor is the simple lousiness and corruption of the New Orleans police force. The forces in New York in September 11 and in Kobe/Osaka in 1995 were clearly better police forces to start with. But yet this is not all of it. Part of it is, as I said, the nature of the disaster. Hurricane Katrina desolated a huge area. The police stations and other resource facilities from which essentially all the police in action in New Orleans were devastated themselves, and the chain of command was completely destroyed. In both New York and Kobe/Osaka, many of the police in action came from parts of the cities that were relatively intact and whose chains of command were operating reasonably well. That above all strikes me as a and perhaps the key difference. The area of the disaster in Louisiana and other states is enormous. For the other two disasters, it was geographically quite small.

(Mainly, though, the point I was making was that the Kobe earthquake was another recent example of a natural disaster in a developed country with which the local authorities coped badly).

And the newspaper article that started this discussion also referred to the Tsunami in Asia at the end of 2004. In that case I am not sure what is to be said. My guess is that there was lawlessness, looting, and all kinds of nasty things in places like Aceh, but it was hidden and not reported. Certainly news of something like this is the last thing the Indonesian government would want to publicise. But I don't really know.

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