The Hurricane Katrina disaster seems so far away, yet it remains close in my mind. Information about the aftermath and disaster recovery effort has sketchy here in Seoul, except for what I can glean from the Internet and cable television. Today the disaster touched me in a small way. I put together a list of disaster recovery organizations and contact information Americans in Korea can use to locate loved ones possibly affected by the disaster. Some Americans have inquired about the relief effort, and the resource list I put together will hopefully be helpful to those who are in Korea but are concerned about the hurricane’s aftermath.
This tragedy is such a shame. The sheer numbers in terms of potential victims and costs to rebuild New Orleans and Gulf Coast is staggering. The ultimate impact of this natural disaster may exceed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Andrew, and the 1906 San Francisco Fire. It conjures memories of the 1900 Galveston, Texas hurricane that leveled the city and is still considered by many to be the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Those who perished in the hurricane or its aftermath could number in the thousands. Yesterday, the mayor of New Orleans estimated that 80% of the city is flooded with water. Risk Management Solutions, a catastrophic risk-modeling firm, estimated today that the economic cost of the disaster could be as high as $100 billion. Swiss Re, a reinsurer, estimated that the insurance claims associated with the disaster could be as much as $20 billion, a figure similar to the estimated loss caused by 9/11. The Superdome, host to a handful of Superbowls in years past, is now virtually uninhabitable and could be demolished. In fact, each day it looks more and more like large sections of the city will have to be completely rebuilt. Some experts have estimated that it may take as long as six months to completely drain the city and years to rebuild it. I often think that the media exaggerates news to hype news stories, but the disaster footage I’ve seen leaves little doubt that the situation on the ground is far more serious than what the news is portraying. I had the same feeling when I read about the Tsunami that devastated Asia and Africa in December 2004. It’s hard to exaggerate reporting on the aftermath of natural disasters with a magnitude as immense at Hurricane Katrina.
I don’t know anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast or in New Orleans, but my sympathies go out to everyone who lost a loved one there, or lost their home, or are dodging bullets and looting, or sitting on roofs waiting to be rescued without food or water, or struggling to cram into large arenas converted into makeshift shelters. I cannot even imagine what it must be like living through the hell that my fellow Americans are going through in this disaster. I imagine that many survivors of Hurricane Katrina felt the same way as they watched in horror as imagines of disaster relief in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other areas hard hit by the Tsunami flashed across their screens. Less than one year later, disaster unexpectedly strikes again with fury. I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the survivors who have to endure high daylight temperatures, surrounded by devastation. It makes me wonder whether an unforeseen disaster will someday cross my own path. It reminds me to remain viligent. Sometimes we can’t control our circumstances, but it doesn’t hurt to try. In the meantime, I hope my family and I never have to go through what the people of the Gulf Coast must face.
Blog note: My family and I will head to Seoraksan National Park tomorrow for a couple of days. Although we will stay at a hotel (no, no camping unfortunately), I don’t know if I will have Internet access. I’ll post another blog entry as soon as I can. I should hopefully have some great pictures for you too.