Letters: Blocked Evacuation at Gretna, FEMA's Advance Warning

Steve Inskeep reads from listeners' letters. Many people were angered by the story of evacuees who tried to flee New Orleans by crossing the bridge to Gretna. City officials in Gretna had closed the bridge, saying they were not prepared to handle the flood of evacuees. We'll also hear from listeners who wrote in about the FEMA official who sent e-mails to his bosses warning that Katrina could be a major disaster.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And it's time to hear some of your comments.

This week, we reported on a small city that forced back a crowd of people trying to flee New Orleans. Police in Gretna shot over the heads of hurricane evacuees, then sealed the bridge that ran between the two cities. Gretna officials explained they weren't prepared to deal with a flood of storm survivors, a defense that listener Susie Stoltz(ph) does not accept.

Ms. SUSIE STOLTZ (Listener): All the excuses in the world fly in the face of a single question: Why would anyone turn back people who were so clearly in dire need? Were all the cupboards bare in Gretna? I live in New York City, and I remember how, on September 11th, tens of thousands of people had to walk all the way home from Lower Manhattan. Shoe store clerks were handing out walking shoes to women who had fled in high-heels. Kids would set up tables along the streets and were handing out drinks of water and pretzels. A livery driver drove my boss home to Boston and refused to take any money. I can't believe that here we are, in 2005, and Americans are turning their backs on fellow Americans.

INSKEEP: We received many comments about our story on Leo Bosner, the FEMA official who sent e-mails to his bosses, warning that Katrina could be a major disaster. Kate Mitron(ph) of Portland, Oregon, writes, `Bless Leo Bosner for giving us facts that FEMA had been properly warned about Katrina and did nothing.' She writes, `We need more people like him to stand up and fight the rampant truth decay that's consuming our nation.'

But some of you wondered why Bosner used an e-mail to send such a serious warning to the then FEMA director, Michael Brown. `E-mail is a horrible form of communication,' writes Irene Barg(ph) of Tucson, Arizona. `If I have an emergency at work, I go directly to my boss and tell him in person.'

And we get this added comment from Timothy Basharer(ph) of Boonton, New Jersey, who writes, `Where I work, I get hundreds of e-mails a day. My managers get even more. If one of my staff had done the same thing as Leo Bosner, I would have held him accountable for not bringing the issue to my attention.'

Several of you commented on our report about the attorney general of Mississippi, who's suing some insurance companies to compel them to pay claims from Hurricane Katrina. George Falter(ph) of Baltimore writes, `The attorney general referred to the fine print that insurance companies rely upon to deny payment for flood damage. I'm a homeowner and I know that my insurance does not cover flood damage.' He writes, `My policy does not contain a fine print exclusion at all. It's in bold print, capital letters, on a separate sheet of paper. It couldn't be more clear. In fact, I would dare say that the standard flood exclusion is common knowledge among homeowners.'

Finally, we have a correction this morning. For an update on the elections in Afghanistan, Renee spoke with the US ambassador to that country, Ronald Neumann. She asked him about the threat of violence.

(Soundbite of interview)

RENEE MONTAGNE (Host): Candidates have been killed in the run-up to this election there in Afghanistan.

Ambassador RONALD NEUMANN (US Ambassador to Afghanistan): Well, so far, six candidates out of 6,000 have been killed. That's .001 percent, and it's not at all clear that all of those cases involved the election.

INSKEEP: OK. That's really what the ambassador said, but we could have paused for a math tutorial, as several listeners correctly pointed out six out of 6,000 is .1 percent, which is a higher risk than the ambassador suggested.

We appreciate 100 percent of the e-mails that you send, and if you'd like to comment on our program, go to npr.org. Click on `contact us.' And while you're on the Web site, you can download the NPR story of the day. If you want to learn more about that, click `NPR podcasts.'

This is NPR News.

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