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Our View: US shows improvement in relief efforts with recent tornados

Last week, the south was hit with a series of devastating tornados that wreaked havoc upon six states in the region, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. The tornados destroyed hundreds of homes, cutting off power across the region. However, the storm hit Alabama hardest. As of Monday night, 326 were counted missing and 216 were confirmed dead. The storms brought to mind another natural disaster in recent history: Hurricane Katrina. It’s nearly six years later and, fortunately, the U.S. seems to have learned from its mistakes. Relief to the region has been swift and will continue to service those affected by the storms. United States disaster relief this time around shows a vast improvement over the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A number of factors contributed to the delayed relief in the south after Hurricane Katrina; many believe that relief was mishandled at a local or state level, while others believe race and class played a role in the federal government’s delayed response. Victims and refugees placed the blame on former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for not warning civilians of the storm threat early enough. Louisianans were not informed of the Hurricane until 19 hours before it struck shore, leaving many stranded inside the city without provisions for survival. The FEMA response to the region was delayed as well.

 

Many blamed former Pres. George W. Bush, citing a lack of organization in the Department of Homeland Security, among harsher criticisms. Many believe the delayed response can be attributed to outright racism. Either way, after the hurricane, thousands were left homeless, stranded atop their submerged homes or packed in the overcrowded Superdome. Thousands died due to lack of drinking water and exhaustion, and many still remain homeless today, nearly six years later. Relief for the devastation caused by the tornados in the south had to be quick locally and federally in order to prevent the disastrous results of Katrina, and so far it has been.

 

In light of the storms that struck Alabama last week, FEMA has already provided $3 million to assist the relief effort. The money has been used for home repairs, temporary shelters and other needs such as medical and transportation costs for those who register for assistance. As of Monday, over 17,000 had registered for relief. Five new relief assistance centers opened on Monday adding to the 11 that opened over the weekend. Local police are also working to track down the over 300 missing residents in Tuscaloosa, Alabama-the city hit hardest by the storms. According to the Los Angeles Times, police in Tuscaloosa have already found over 600 formerly missing residents since last week.

 

On Friday, Obama visited Tuscaloosa and vowed to “do everything we can to help these communities rebuild.” Obama also signed a disaster declaration for Alabama, which allows those affected by the storms to receive federal aid once the local government exceeds its means.

On Monday, the National Weather Service reported 326 tornados struck nationwide last week — way above the average 116 for the month of April. What’s even more frightening is that, according to The Weather Channel, tornado season typically runs from April to July with May and June as the peak months. As we head toward the peak of tornado season, it’s important that the local and federal government remain dedicated to the continuous supply of relief to those in need.

After last week’s storms, the south seems to be ready to focus on rebuilding itself. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley stated Friday, “We’ve gotten past the rescue stage. We have begun the recovery stage.” If local leaders, FEMA and Obama continue to aid the south in its relief effort, we will, hopefully, avoid another Katrina-like disaster.

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