Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and scandals in the USA

This video says about itself:

14 September 2017

Eight patients at a Florida nursing home that lost power are among the latest to lose their lives in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Police have opened a criminal investigation as they try to determine whether high temperatures and a lack of air-conditioning were to blame.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Hollywood, Florida.

THIS FLORIDA NURSING HOME WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A REFUGE Then it turned into a “death warehouse.” [HuffPost]

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

A social crime: Eight elderly dead in Florida nursing home after days without air conditioning

14 September 2017

The death of eight elderly residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, north of Miami, after suffering for several days in sweltering heat without air conditioning following Hurricane Irma, is not only a horrific tragedy, it is a social crime.

The heat index in southeast Florida overnight Tuesday into Wednesday was around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), unbearable for many of the residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. One person who visited her mother at the home on Tuesday afternoon said that “it felt like 110 degrees.” Staff called police early Wednesday after residents woke up sick, and at least one person was found unresponsive.

Four residents died at the nursing home, and another four died after being sent to the hospital. At least 115 residents were evacuated by Hollywood Fire Rescue.

Repairman Dave Long told Local 10 News that he had been fighting with Florida Power and Light (FPL), the power company, since Monday to send someone to fix a fuse on the nursing home’s air conditioning unit that had popped during the storm. “There’s nothing we can do,” Long said. “We’ve been calling and calling. … It just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and I can’t do anything until we get that fuse popped back in.”

Another woman quoted anonymously by Local 10 News said that she had called FPL on behalf of her mother who was in the facility repeatedly since Monday demanding to know when the air conditioning would be turned back on. “I kept calling,” she said. “And I said, ‘This is life-threatening.’”

The residents were left to suffer in the suffocating heat and humidity even as the hospital across the street, Memorial Regional Hospital, maintained power throughout the storm and in its aftermath. While the nursing home had a backup power generator, it was used only for cooking food.

FPL spokesman Rob Gould sought to pass the blame, stating at a press conference on Wednesday that the nursing home had not been identified prior to the current Hurricane season as a high priority facility by officials from Broward County, where Hollywood is located.

“They identified which facilities were to be critical top infrastructure facilities, this was not one of them,” Gould said.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which is affiliated with Larkin Community Hospital, received a health inspection rating of “much below average” from the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration after a review in March found unsanitary conditions and poor food.

Beyond the immediate responsibility of the FPL and local authorities, the deaths at the Hollywood nursing home are a byproduct of the criminal levels of neglect on the part of the ruling class, revealed in the response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In both cases, no systematic measures were taken to facilitate evacuations, particularly of the elderly and infirm who are not able to drive. Florida authorities clearly had nothing in place to ensure that its most vulnerable residents were safe after the storm.

At the same time, the massive power outage itself is the product of decades of neglect of basic social infrastructure. Some 10 million people, or about half the population of Florida, are still without power, which in some areas may not be restored for weeks. There have been extremely limited efforts to place power lines underground and fortify aboveground substations to protect the electrical network from wind and falling trees. This is a privilege limited to only the wealthiest neighborhoods.

There is a danger that the deaths in Hollywood will be repeated. The Florida Health Care Association reported that one quarter of all licensed nursing homes in the state were without electricity as of Tuesday and were relying on generators to supply power.

The elderly, infirm and those recovering from surgeries are among the most vulnerable to illness and death in the aftermath of major storms. Those in nursing homes are especially at risk as they may rely on oxygen, ventilators, and refrigeration for medication to stay alive. There are some 73,000 nursing home residents across the state, and there are approximately 3.6 million senior citizens in Florida, many who live on their own or with some form of assisted living.

More than half of Century Village, a large retirement community in Pembroke Pines, Florida, west of Hollywood, was still without power and under a boil-water advisory Wednesday. Residents and their relatives sent out desperate pleas for assistance on Twitter and Facebook. Without the elevators not functioning, those confined to wheelchairs were stuck in their upstairs apartments with no air conditioning, as temperatures rose throughout the day rose to an unbearable 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

So far there have been 36 deaths in the US related to Irma and 43 more across the Caribbean. Multiple deaths in the US have been ascribed to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators operated inside homes or garages, often out of fear that they could be stolen if left unattended outside. A seven-year-old girl in Lakeland, east of Tampa, died of carbon monoxide poisoning on Wednesday. In Orange County, three members of a family were killed and four more were sickened after a generator was left running in their home.

Even as the death toll continues to mount in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the mainstream media has hailed the government’s response, giving the Trump administration a pass and covering up the criminal negligence that has left millions without power and at the mercy of sweltering heat.

The New York Times proclaimed in a headline Tuesday that, “Amid Chaos of Storms, U.S. Shows It Has Improved Its Response.” The article ascribes the “surprisingly contained” death toll to lessons supposedly learned in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, including the massive growth of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Washington Post meanwhile proclaimed that the Trump administration had won “cautious praise” for its response to both Harvey and Irma.

The attempt to whitewash the government response to the hurricanes is bound up with concerns that the devastation wrought by the storms could fuel social anger. Both the Democrats and Republicans, moreover, are anxious to move on to other priorities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats, dined with Trump Wednesday night at the White House, where they discussed how they could extend their political alliance on domestic legislation. The main aim of an agreement between the Democrats and Trump would be to push through major tax cuts for corporations, which the Trump administration has defined as its most important domestic priority.

This 13 September 2017 video from Texas in the USA is called WSWS interviews Hurricane Harvey victim at George R. Brown Convention Center.

By Tom Hall reporting from Houston, Texas, USA:

Evacuees, volunteers describe inadequate services, police harassment at Houston convention center

14 September 2017

A World Socialist Web Site reporting team went to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston on Sunday, where approximately 1,200 people are still stranded in a temporary shelter two weeks after Hurricane Harvey caused record flooding in Southeast Texas.

More than 3,000 people were still in the Brown Convention Center and the NRG Center to the southwest, the city’s two main hurricane shelters, over the weekend, according to local press reports. While this is down considerably from its peak in the days immediately following the storm, when more than 10,000 sought shelter at the NRG Center alone, those who remain are largely those in the most dire situations; homeowners who lost everything and have nowhere to go back to, homeless people who had nowhere to go in the first place, and the elderly and people with health issues seeking treatment at the shelters’ medical facilities.

The two facilities where the shelters are located are lucrative centers of the city’s tourism industry, hosting the lion’s share of the more than 400 conventions held in Houston last year, with an estimated total economic impact of $253 million. Moreover, they are both located within walking distance of the city’s major professional sports venues, with the NRG Center across the parking lot from the city’s professional football stadium.

Consequently, the city’s business community and political establishment are eager to return both buildings to normal operations as quickly as possible, even though many of the thousands left in the shelter have no place else to go.

The Red Cross is seeking to wind down its operations at the convention center “in the near future,” and the NRG Center’s shelter will close within two to three weeks, according to a local radio station. Plans announced last week by the city to convert a downtown warehouse into housing for up to 300 evacuees from the convention center will do nothing to seriously address the needs of thousands of people who lost everything in the storm.

Undoubtedly, another consideration is that the sight of thousands of destitute hurricane victims in highly visible public areas clashes with the dominant narrative in the media and political establishment of a rapid improvement in conditions throughout the city, aimed at downplaying the real scope of the social disaster after the hurricane, which was greatly exacerbated by decades of negligence and widespread poverty and social inequality. This was signaled more than a week ago by Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, even before the floodwaters had fully been drained out of many areas, when he declared, “The city of Houston is open for business,” in comments delivered to the press from the convention center. His comments echoed those made by Trump the day before, when he declared, “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing … They’re [the refugees] really happy with what’s going on.”

WSWS reporters encountered a clash of contrasts, with hundreds of destitute evacuees sitting outside the convention center in one of the most affluent commercial areas of downtown Houston. The orange wristbands they wore which entitled them to re-enter the shelter also effectively barred them from entering the other buildings in the area, with nearby hotels and restaurants, accustomed to catering to a wealthier clientele, beefing up security to prevent evacuees from entering to get a meal or to escape the Texas summer heat.

A constant complaint from evacuees and from volunteers was the violent and arbitrary treatment meted out to the shelter’s residents by Houston police and by security personnel, who treat the evacuees as potential criminals. Many said that they had witnessed or themselves have been the victims of harassment or even assault by police. Interviewees also complained about the completely inadequate provisions made available to the evacuees at the convention center.

Reporters spoke to Zane Ford and Katie Scott, a young couple who had recently been engaged before the hurricane and were in the process of moving out of the shelter. They had recently purchased a home, which was wiped out in the hurricane. When they reached the convention center a week ago they had not eaten for three days. At first, they found the Red Cross staff sympathetic and helpful. “Some Red Cross members and volunteers gave us 20 dollar bills and people would leave food at our cot while we were sleeping,” they said. However, the situation began to change over the past few days. A couple of days before, two Red Cross officials had threatened to have them arrested for “having an attitude.”

Katie Scott and Zane Ford

The couple also described the discrimination they faced from nearby businesses. Katie explained that they had been refused service in a nearby restaurant because they “looked like they didn’t belong here.”

The WSWS also spoke to Margaret, a veterinarian who had come to volunteer her time to help the many evacuees in the shelter with pets. She stressed the importance of animals when people are struggling with stressful situations. When asked how conditions were inside, Margaret responded, “it was hard to work through.” She stated that everything was relatively clean, but people weren’t treated as they should be.

Margaret (left) and Jay (right), two volunteers at the Convention Center

She noted the lack of proper nutrition in the food being given to the refugees. “I don’t understand why they can’t have hot meals.” She noted that, even as they fail to provide evacuees with basic nutritional needs, the CEO of the Red Cross, Gail McGovern, makes an astronomical salary, reportedly taking home a total compensation of over $1 million in 2010. Margaret expressed her frustration at the situation and was tempted to buy eggs or other simple foods that could be made into nutritious meals for those at the center.

When Tiffany Cofield, a former teacher, saw our reporting team, she flagged us down and immediately requested to be interviewed. She reported that police tasered her 66-year-old uncle, John Von Jones, Jr., after an altercation over his dog. She did not know where he was and said that police had told her it would take up to 72 hours for her family to be notified of his whereabouts. “They’ve kicked out people for no reason, they’ve attacked people for no reason,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany said that food served at the convention center was consistently of poor quality, with residents relying on care packages handed out by charities and private individuals outside the building for decent meals. “Yesterday, for breakfast, we had a pudding cup and some peaches. It’s too much,” she said. “Everybody’s frantic. If you didn’t have PTSD before, you have it now. If you didn’t have stress or anxiety, you definitely have it now.”

“You feel like you’re at Harris County Jail,” she continued. “They assume that if you’re here you must be indigent, or lazy, or have no education.” She said that evacuees are not allowed to bring people in; shortly before she spoke to the WSWS, police had turned away a woman who had volunteered to do her hair to help her prepare for a job interview.

Tiffany criticized the mainstream media for its silence on the real conditions in the convention center, stating, “there are so many people who are actually willing to do interviews, [and] there’s nobody here.”

Tiffany directed WSWS reporters to her Instagram page, where she posted videos of conditions inside the convention center and her thoughts about the treatment of people there. Several hours after the WSWS interviewed her, she posted a video of Houston police kicking her out of the shelter, followed by a video, apparently filmed at a police station, announcing that she had been arrested.

Houston health officials warn homeowners about slight uptick in diseases after Harvey: here.

The more than 13 trillion gallons of floodwater from Hurricane Harvey have created a massive plume of freshwater in the Gulf of Mexico that is threatening the coral reefs of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary about 100 miles offshore of Galveston: here.

13 thoughts on “Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and scandals in the USA

  1. Pingback: Birds, hurricanes and solar eclipses | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Hurricane Irma disaster in Florida, USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Hurricane Maria threatens Puerto Rico, other Caribbean islands | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico and further | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Hurricane Maria devastates Puerto Rico | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: United States soldiers, no aid, to Puerto Rico | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Puerto Ricans interviewed after hurricane disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Caribbean birds and hurricanes | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. Pingback: Climate change conference COP23, reactions | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  10. Pingback: Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  11. Pingback: Hurricane season restarts in Caribbean, USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  12. Pingback: United States disasters make inequality worse | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.