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Thursday, December 15, 2005 

Dispelling the Katrina Myths

More facts are coming to light as to the deaths and false allegations to the so called conspirocy of "Genocide " during the Katrina disaster:

[courtesy of the following: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20051201.NEWORLEANS01/TPStory]

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Katrina didn't discriminate, New Orleans death toll showsAge, not race, found to be biggest factor in deaths tied to devastating hurricaneBy PAUL KORING

Thursday, December 1, 2005 Page A3

WASHINGTON -- White residents of New Orleans were just as likely to die as black residents caught in hurricane Katrina's killing floods, death toll records show, exploding the media-fuelled myth that the city's black residents died in disproportionate numbers.

Of the 623 bodies identified to date from the greater New Orleans area, 293 are black and 262 are Caucasian, according to the latest numbers released this week by Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals. While race wasn't a key factor, age clearly was -- two-thirds of the victims were older than 60.

An analysis of areas of the predominantly black Orleans Parish and two adjacent, mostly white parishes shows that the death toll closely matched demographics. That picture -- of a colour-blind killer storm -- stands in sharp contrast to that of black people dying in droves because of an uncaring or delinquent relief effort.

"Two of the areas that were hardest hit were mostly white and upper-middle-class. . . . There were homes that were worth hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that people were drowning in," said Jon Donley, editor of nola.com, the on-line arm of the Times-Picayune. "There's so much disinformation going on that this is just a part of it.

"There were major misconceptions, right from the beginning," Mr. Donley added.

Nola.com has been widely praised for its rapid, detailed reporting -- so detailed at times that the military was using it to locate victims in need of rescue.

Not all media outlets were so careful.

"We often let our presumptions jump ahead of the facts," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of Columbia University's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "We let our preconceived notions guide our news judgment."

The widely circulated scenes of angry people holed up in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center mostly depicted blacks, and "we assumed they were a proxy for those who had died," Mr. Rosenstiel said.

But even senior politicians made unsubstantiated claims.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, for instance, said U.S. citizens "have to come to terms with the ugly truth that skin colour, age and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not."

The data collected by Louisiana state authorities and the Orleans coroner's office do not yield an economic breakdown of those who died.

Certainly Dr. Dean was right about age, although no one accused the government of not caring about the elderly, a group that tends to vote disproportionately for Republicans.

He, like many commentators and much of the media, was wrong about race, which seems to have played no role in the death toll, according to the latest numbers.

Of the 623 identified bodies from the greater New Orleans area, 268 or 39 per cent were older than 75. Another 150, or 25 per cent, were between 61 and 75. Another 88 were in their fifties. Only one child under 5, and another between 6 and 10, died.

Dozens of elderly people drowned after being abandoned in nursing homes. Even larger numbers died alone in their own homes after failing, refusing or being unable to leave, despite a mandatory evacuation order.

"Young people could climb on roofs or into attics," Mr. Donley said.

Indeed, what was memorable about the massive rescue effort by scores of military helicopters clattering above inundated neighbourhoods was the youth of most of those being hauled to safety.

The disproportionate death toll among the elderly "was almost entirely a failure of evacuation, not of response," Mr. Donley said.

Other claims, some far wilder but also widely broadcast and apparently unchecked, have also failed to stand up. Mayor Ray Nagin said in the midst of the crisis that thousands crammed into the Superdome were "watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

No murders or rapes were ever confirmed in the Superdome. Former New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass said on The Oprah Winfrey Show that babies were being raped and tourists were being beaten; he later admitted that he was repeating unconfirmed reports.

More bodies are still being found. The death toll in Louisiana stands at 1,086.

Of those, 893 are at the St. Gabriel morgue, which has become the collection point for greater New Orleans.

As yet, 270 have still not been identified, because many of the bodies were so badly decomposed by the time they were recovered that dental records or DNA testing will be needed to identify them.

Portrait of Katrina's victims

Louisiana authorities have so far recovered 1,086 victims of hurricane Katrina, but only 623 have been identified. This is how the age and race of those killed compare to the population.

Age range of victims

Percentage breakdown of the 623 victims identified so far.

Age Percentage
0-5 1
6-10 1
11-15 1
16-20 1
21-30 2
31-40 3
41-50 8
51-60 14
61-75 25
75+ 39
Unknown 5

Age range of populace

Percentage breakdown of the New Orleans residents

Age Percentage
0-5 6.9
5-9 7.7
10-14 7.6
15-19 7.9
20-24 8.0
25-34 14.5
35-44 14.6
45-54 13.1
55-59 4.4
60-64 3.4
65-74 6.0
75-84 4.2
85+ 1.5

Note: Age range groupings differ in above graphs, but pattern of information is valid for comparison

Race of victims: Percentage breakdown of the 623 victims identified so far

Black: 46%

Hispanic: 2%

White: 42%

Other: 3%

Unknown: 7%

Race of populace: Percentage breakdown of New Orleans residents

Black: 67.3%

Hispanic: 3.1%

White: 28.1%

Other: 1.5%

SOURCE: ST. GABRIEL MORGUE, 2000 CENSUS

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20051201.NEWORLEANS01/TPStory

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