Disaster Response: France Vs. The USA

When you try to evaluate the performance of a government, it’s often useful to compare what it’s done to another government in roughly similar situations. So, let us compare the disaster relief performance of the US to that of one of our Western European “allies,” France.

First, we’ll start with the USA.

After Katrina, Bush was lambasted from every direction for the Federal Government’s “slow response” to the crisis. In fact, the government was perceived as being so snail-like, so glacial, that Bush was actually accused of hating black people and wanting them to die.

Well, let’s look at the performance of the Federal government after Katrina.

Katrina was a massive natural disaster that hit an enormous area, snarled roads, and made some areas inaccessible because of floods. Still, on the same day that Katrina hit, Monday, there were already Coast Guard, Air Force, Air National Guard and Army choppers doing house to house rescues. Those rescue missions continued non-stop until the danger passed.

Furthermore, a number of New Orleans residents fled to the Superdome and Convention Center to ride out the storm. Normally, the local officials would have handled evacuating all those people. But, since they failed to do their job, the Federal government had to step in.

Once again, Katrina hit on a Monday and by Friday the military had established order and gotten needed supplies (that once again should have been provided by the locals) into both buildings. By the following Monday, 8 days after the storm, both buildings were completely evacuated.

The death toll in New Orleans, after one of the worst natural disasters in American history, was 972.

Now let’s look to that liberal paradise, France. Here’s the latest news on the Paris riots:

President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency Tuesday, paving the way for curfews to be imposed on riot-hit cities and towns in an extraordinary measure to halt France’s worst civil unrest in decades after 12 nights of violence.

Police, meanwhile, said overnight unrest Monday-Tuesday, while still widespread and destructive, was not as violent as previous nights.

“The intensity of this violence is on the way down,” National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said, citing fewer attacks on public buildings and fewer direct clashes between youths and police. He said rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared to nearly 300 the night before.”

Note that after 12 nights of rioting, they’re just getting around to declaring a state of emergency and the police seem to be proud of the fact there is now rioting in only 226 towns instead of 300. Moreover, the French government has rejected calls by a police union for troops to be sent in. How’s that for “government-in-action?”

Next, let’s go back in time to another great moment in French governance: the heat wave in 2003.

As was mentioned earlier, America lost almost 1000 people in New Orleans during one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit our country. On the other hand, France lost 10,000 – 15,000 people in August of 2003 just because it got hot. And what did France’s government do to try to save lives? Very little. In fact, Jacques Chirac didn’t even bother to issue a statement or break off his vacation in Canada while his people were roasting alive by the thousands.

It’s a telling comparsion, folks, one that we should all keep in mind…

*** Update #1 ***: This post was updated slightly to reflect the fact that Katrina did not offically make landfall in New Orleans until early Monday morning on August 28th, rather than late Sunday night.

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