Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

If a foreign nation refused to allow the Red Cross in to help treat the victims of a tragedy like this one we'd have two thoughts, in this order:


  1. Are you crazy?! People are dying!
  2. What do you have to hide?


Short of insanity or fear of exposure -- and without official explanation -- that's all I can come up with. Here's the Red Cross's notes on the lockout (thanks to tip from reader Janet):

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

  • Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
  • The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
  • The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.
  • The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.
  • The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.
  • The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.
  • As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.

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