WALB News team witnessed slow response to Katrina victims - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

WALB News team witnessed slow response to Katrina victims

February 16, 2006

Biloxi, Mississippi - A House committee report says all levels of government are to blame for the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. The report also states that the preparation for and response to Katrina "should disturb all Americans." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he accepts responsibility for what he calls many lapses.

One such lapse we witnessed in Biloxi, Mississippi. When we were sent to help our sister station, WLOX-TV,  we saw first-hand not only the suffering, but the seemingly endless wait for bare necessities, like water.

Soon after our crew arrived in Biloxi on Tuesday, August 30th, lines began forming outside a couple of generator-powered stores.  People were in dire need of ice, water, medicine, and baby formula.  As the hot summer sun beat down, there was no government relief in site.  In fact, as we witnessed, it would be three days after the storm before the first truckload of ice and water would arrive.

On Thursday, September 1st when that first truck loaded with ice pulled into a parking lot, we asked the truck driver what took him so long.  Amazingly, he told us he'd been in the area since Tuesday, but was waiting on government clearance and security before he could make delivery of his precious cargo.  While supply trucks were held at bay, for whatever reason, we could only watch as the people of Biloxi, Mississippi suffered.  Lawmakers will now try to determine if their suffering could have been eased much sooner. It's that government red tape, that lack of preparation and poor response that are now at the heart of a stormy debate in Washington.

The House inquiry finds fault all levels of government from federal to local.  It determined that authorities failed to move quickly to protect people even when faced with warnings days before the storm struck