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FEMA stalls hurricane rescue efforts

And now it’s time for the stupidity.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is blocking some 500 airboat pilots from entering New Orleans to assist in rescuing victims still trapped in floodwaters.

“We cannot get deployed to save our behinds,’ said Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the Florida Airboat Association. He said the pilots, who range from commercial airboat operators to weekend pleasure boaters, “are physically sick, watching the New Orleans coverage and knowing that the resources to help these poor people is sitting right in our driveways.’

On standby since Monday, the pilots — many from Central Florida — have spent thousands of their own dollars stocking their boats and swamp buggies with food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not authorize the airboaters to enter New Orleans. Without that permission, they would be subject to arrest and would not receive security and support services. . . .

“To me, 500 airboats seems a perfect solution to the chaos and difficulty getting people out of their flooded homes,’ said U.S. Rep Mark Foley, R-Palm Beach Gardens. “I’d love them to be able to go in and help, and that’s what I’ve conveyed to FEMA.’

A FEMA representative said citizen volunteers are not being allowed into New Orleans for one big reason: It’s just not safe.

“I think it’s understandable, particularly given the TV footage that the entire world is seeing, for folks who have a big heart to feel a little bit frustrated and want to help,’ said Frances Marine, Orlando’s FEMA public-affairs director. “However, it’s so important to be coordinated. Those areas are dangerous right now. There are health hazards and limited ways of getting in and out. . . . Right now, private citizens trying to go into those impacted areas are more hindrance than help.’ — South Florida Sun-Sentinel

This is idiotic political bullshit at its finest. There’s already no coordination among rescue efforts. And I trust a group of citizens with even CB radios to coordinate a whole lot better than rescue efforts have gone so far.

With a lack of functioning radio communications, the New Orleans Police Department has disintegrated. According to unconfirmed reports, fewer than 60 police officers remain on duty, the remainder having fled, or quit then fled. And all of them report they have virtually no communication with any kind of coordinator.

FEMA has faced a lot of criticism in past days for mishandling the response to Hurricane Katrina. Most of it I haven’t covered here because people are dying, and have died, and our primary focus should be on them. But a stunt like this shows where their true priorities lie.

They are not concerned so much with rescue volunteers’ safety as with covering their own asses. The National Guard was ordered into harm’s way. These brave Americans are volunteering to be put in harm’s way to help their fellow man, and have been ready since Katrina made landfall. They should be in there.

Washington Monthly claims the failure of FEMA is a result of Republican defunding and removing responsibility from the agency. Whether that’s true or not, it’s clear that FEMA has failed.

FEMA can hold great press conferences, and spin with the best of them. But when it comes down to actually getting stuff done…forget it. Send in the citizens on their airboats, and people might have a chance.

(Hat tip to Hammer of Truth.)

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