We picked this one up from an industrial hygiene health group on Yahoo. The following are the thoughts of Frank G. Duncan, who lived through it...
Having been through Katrina in New Orleans, and Slidell, Louisiana, I have become not just tired but exasperated with the never ending pot-shots taken at the US Government for all of the failings. I'm sorry, but it is just not fair.
Over 1,250,000 people were in the danger zone and were warned to evacuate. About 1,000-2,000 people actually died. A lot of those who died had decided to ride out the storm in their homes. It was a fatal mistake.
When Hurricane Betsy hit back in the 1960's (And yes, I was in that one, too.) a lot of people drowned in their attics when the water rose and there was no way out. There was a proposal to require an axe to be stored in the attics in St. Bernard Parish, but, unfortunately, it was dropped. Many people were found there after Hurricane Katrina. Trapped and unable to escape. But this time they had much more than plenty of warning.
The US Government weather bureau had started telling people that there was going to be a BIG problem when this storm came ashore. And Katrina was tracked for many days as it cruised along the Gulf Coast. If you didn't know that there was trouble coming, you had to be deaf, dumb, and blind. It was headline news for almost a week. It was on TV, radio, and the newspapers ad nauseum.
Katrina hit shore on August 29, a Monday, and did as much devastation as any war. Even the Interstates were impassable at first, let alone surface streets and local roads. I am not really sure that people outside the impact area really understood how bad the damage was. It was not just New Orleans that was flooded, but many other communities to the north and east. One third of Slidell, my town, was also under water.
Most of the power grid was destroyed-but that is not a problem of the US Government since that is run by private industry. There was no phone service at all. Once again not the US Governments doing since that is run by private industry, too. With no power, there was no water. Once again, though, this was a municipal problem, not the US governments responsibility. Also with no power, there was no sewage treatment. (The US Government did help out there by threatening to sue the communities that failed to treat their sewage.)
Although there were shortages of food, water and gasoline, by Wednesday following the storm, there were locations set up in most areas where you could drive up in your vehicle, tell how many people you needed help for, and they would throw in MRE's (a self-contained, individual field ration), gallons of water, and packages of ice as needed at no charge. That was two days after the storm. That was the US Government at work. There were people who didn't get all they wanted to eat or drink, but no one that I know of died of starvation or thirst. There were a lot of uncomfortable people who suffered from the heat, but the US Government can't be held responsible for that. I'm sorry, but it has ALWAYS been hot in the South in August and September.
Now we get to the crux of this discussion and that is the presence of formaldehyde in the trailers. The US Government set about trying to provide for the IMMEDIATE housing of upwards of 100,000 people. Not next year. Not next month. Not next week, but NOW. Right now. Today. Of course, that couldn't happen. There weren't that many free trailers in the whole of the US.
But designs were made and contracts were let and private industry went to work on a 24/7 schedule to turn out living quarters. By the standards of most of the world, they were luxurious indeed. They have air conditioning, stoves, heaters, hot water, a shower, as well as places to eat and sleep. For free. No rent.
Now the problem of formaldehyde is to be considered. The source of the formaldehyde is the plywood, particle board, and carpeting. I want any of the group out there to design a portable shelter with all of the listed amenities that is easy to build with available materials and is also cheap and fast to build. These trailers are to be built by the thousands, by many different companies with standard tools that are readily available. But have NO formaldehyde. Would somebody please step up to the plate with a design. I very much want to see it. They may not have been perfect, but they were far better than nothing.
I would also like to point out that if someone had even the faintest concern about formaldehyde, they didn't have to take a free trailer. They could go buy a tent. They could build a lean-to out of the storm debris. They could live in one of the tens of thousands of vacant houses still dotting the area. They could enjoy the fresh air containing the fetid miasma from rotting animals and vegetation. Not to mention the suffocating heat and humidity. They also need to remember not to ever buy a new home, since all of the materials in a new house also emit formaldehyde.