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Citizens

“Nobody wants us. [They think we’re] all the thugs from the murder capital with gold teeth and braided hair.” Mac Osbourne, seeking refuge outside New Orleans.

“We have no orders to collect bodies, but to weigh them down if they are floating and mark the spot. We have nowhere to put them.” New Orleans police officer.

“He came to my door with three big white guys and told me he wanted us out.” Charlotte McGee, 50, forced to leave a motel after the owner doubled the rate. She had fled there with her four daughters to wait out the hurricane.

“Just been born the wrong colour. If these people were a bunch of Caucasian Americans out there, this would never have happened.” Larry Martin, New Orleans.

“They opened the levees to save the whole neighbourhood to protect their investments.” Larry Crawford, 34, believing, as many sincerely do, that some districts were deliberately flooded to relieve pressure on the dykes protecting others.

“They left us out here. Them bitches flood us. Fuck Bush.” Graffiti daubed on a warehouse in New Orleans.

“You loot, we shoot. Looters will be shot.” Graffiti on a New Orleans factory wall.

Politicians

“Out of the rubble of Trent Lott’s house – he’s lost his entire house – there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.” President George W. Bush.

”Today I saw 5,000 African-Americans on Highway 10, desperate, perishing, dehydrating, babies crying - it looked like the hold of a slave ship. It’s so ugly and obvious.” Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

“We spent more than $100bn [€80bn, £54bn] to go into Iraq. Would we be so stingy so as not to spend that on our own people?’’ Garnett Coleman, democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives.

“It’s so glaring that the great majority of people crying out for help are poor, they’re black. There’s a whole segment of society that’s being left behind.” Democratic congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

“There is nobody who has ever seen or dealt with a catastrophe on this scale in this country. It has never happened before. No matter what the planning was in advance, we were presented with an unprecedented situation.” Michael Chertoff, US secretary of homeland security.

“The world saw this tidal wave of disaster ascend upon the Gulf Coast, and now they’re going to see a tidal wave of compassion.” President George W. Bush.

“[The failed response] puts into question all of the homeland security … planning for the last four years, because if we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?” Newt Gingrich, the former House Republican speaker.

“If these people hadn’t been poor and black they wouldn’t have been left in New Orleans in the first place. I mean, you have to choose between, can I leave town? If I do, can I pay for the hotel... and so people made the choice, ‘we’re going to try and see if we can live through this thing.” William Jefferson, conservative Democrat congressman from Louisiana.

“We cannot allow it to be said by history the difference between those who lived and died . . . was nothing more than poverty, age or skin colour.” John Lewis, a Georgian Democrat and member of the congressional Black Caucus.

“For people in an emergency situation, we don’t need a [US-style] weak state, but a strong state instead.” German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who faces an uphill struggle to win re-election.

Celebrities

”Bush doesn’t care about black people. It’s been five days [waiting for help] because most of the people are black. America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. We already realised a lot of the people that could help are at war right now.” Rapper Kanye West on NBC television.

”There are people that are dying right now and I mean babies and old people and everybody in between - they’re dying. There are people dying and [the US government are] not putting the boats in the water, I think that’s criminal negligence. I don’t think anybody ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in this situation.” Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Sean Penn.

Experts

“The responsibility for preparing for disasters has been removed from Fema and placed with law and order experts. Not only were these changes unwise but the new systems are extremely immature … They have been destroying Fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency].” Kathleen Tierney, author of Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States.

“If Bush had not diverted so many National Guard units to Iraq, disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina would have been swifter and more effective. And if the war in Iraq had not caused the Bush administration to raid money for the New Orleans levees, this big port city might not be a corpse-filled cesspool.” Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation.

“Our population has doubled overnight with people who have very little means to recover. They [refugees from New Orleans] don’t have jobs, and if they ever get them, they’ll be minimum wage.” Liz Murrill, law professor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

“We knew that about 120,000 of the people who needed to be evacuated did not have cars, so we would need to position buses. The buses were not there. We knew that the levees would be under heavy stress and so we should position barges with pumps up the Mississippi in preparation for flooding. This was not done. We knew that the Superdome would be used as a refuge of last resort so we should pre-position food and medical supplies. They were not there. … Nobody pulled the trigger to get those resources there. They could have been there on the first day instead of the fifth day.” Jane Bullock, former chief of staff at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Compiled by David Crouch

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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