London Grenfell Tower disaster damages mental health


London, England: Grenfell survivors and local residents outside Kensington & Chelsea Council Town Hall demanding the resignation of the council

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 23 September 2017

GRENFELL INFERNO! – unprecedented trauma

THE GRENFELL Tower disaster triggered a mental health crisis of an ‘unprecedented’ scale, a leading doctor has said 100 days on from the fire.

NHS data shows 457 adults have been flagged as being in ‘urgent need’ of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, while 39 children are also receiving specialist mental health care.

Survivors and nearby witnesses of the June 14 inferno, which left so many dead, are considered to have a 50% chance of developing the disorder, according to health service modelling. Those mentally scarred by the tragedy report suffering from flashbacks and sleeplessness, which can be triggered by the sight of the tower’s wreckage, clinicians say.

Dr Alastair Bailey, the clinical psychological lead at the NHS Grenfell Tower Trauma Service, said the impact of the fire is unlike anything seen before by the health service. He said: ‘It is unprecedented, I don’t think we have experienced anything like it. We had similar events that have been large-scale, traumatic events that have occurred in the UK.

‘We think about the London bombings, the terror attack in Tunisia which affected British nationals and other events over the years, but nothing has affected a community like this for a number of years.

‘Similar events have occurred that have affected one community, things like the Hillsborough football disaster, the Aberfan disaster in Wales, similar in that they affected one community a number of years ago.

‘In terms of a trauma response, managing an NHS response to trauma, we are using ideas and protocols and procedures that were developed after London bombings and other similar events, which are quite different.’

A staff of around 170 mental health workers, soon to be more than 200, have been tasked with supporting the west London community, holding specialist surgeries and knocking on doors to ensure support is given to those affected.

Currently, 201 patients are receiving treatment from mental health services in the area and eight people have completed treatment, said the Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL). But, with more than 150 families from Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk still in hotels, many people grappling with trauma are reluctant to begin receiving treatment. CNWL, the main service responding to the disaster, said 20% of patients referred to them decline further treatment, often citing their living arrangements as the problem.

As the neighbourhood marks another grim milestone since the country’s most costly tragedy in a generation, just five households left destitute by the blaze have found permanent accommodation.

See also here.

Diane Abbott: Grenfell Tower fire ‘direct consequence of deregulation, privatisation and outsourcing’. Shadow Home Secretary calls for immigration amnesty for survivors, and says Labour would recruit 3,000 firefighters: here.

DEREGULATION and privatisation are to blame for the Grenfell Tower inferno and justice must be served for the victims and survivors, Diane Abbott said at the Labour conference yesterday. The shadow home secretary insisted the fire, which was fuelled by combustible cladding installed on the exterior of the 24-storey west London housing block, was a direct result of Tory-led deregulation of fire standards and inspection, privatisation and outsourcing: here.

Kensington and Chelsea council terminates contract with Grenfell Tower landlord. Body ‘no longer has the trust of residents,’ says deputy council leader: here.

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Hurricane Irma disaster in Florida, USA


This video from TV in the USA says about itself:

Hollywood police chief on sealing Florida nursing home as crime scene

14 September 2017

Florida’s Hollywood police chief Tomas Sanchez joins “CBS This Morning” from the now-closed Florida nursing home where eight patients died. Rescue crews evacuated the home Wednesday after it lost power in Hurricane Irma, and police say the deaths of the patients appear to be heat-related.

Florida officials are alleging a disturbing cover-up at the nursing home where nine people died after Hurricane Irma.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

New details highlight criminal neglect in death of Florida nursing home residents

15 September 2017

The deaths on Wednesday of eight Florida nursing home residents in Hollywood, Florida, left to swelter in extreme heat after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, has exposed the incompetence and indifference of the ruling class, which bears ultimate responsibility for this social crime.

The more than 150 residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were left to suffer in extreme humidity and temperatures in the building approaching 110 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius).

While the facility had a generator, it was used only to power the kitchen. When power was restored by utility provider Florida Power and Light (FPL), portable air conditioning units and fans were employed, but they made little difference for the residents. The central air conditioning unit remained offline, the transformer that powered it having been damaged in the storm.

Hollywood Hills staff called 911 early Wednesday morning after residents began to complain that they felt ill. The first patient was rushed across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital at around 3 a.m. After the third patient arrived some two hours later, hospital staff rushed across the street to check on the nursing home and found residents suffering in unbearable heat.

“We had no idea the extent of what was going on until we literally sent people room to room to check on people,” Dr. Randy Katz, Memorial’s chairman of emergency medicine told the New York Times. Katz reported that at least one patient from the nursing home had come into the emergency room on Tuesday seeking treatment, but no suspicions were raised about potentially life-threatening conditions at the facility.

Three of the victims were found dead in their rooms, a fourth body was located at a funeral home, and the remaining victims died at the hospital. At least 40 of the residents were identified as having trouble breathing and suffering from life-threatening conditions.

The eight victims were identified Wednesday by the Broward County Medical Examiner as Carolyn Eatherly, 78; Miguel Antonio Franco, 92; Estella Hendricks, 71; Betty Hibbard, 84; Manuel Mario Medieta, 96; Gail Nova, 71; Bobby Owens, 84; and Albertina Vega, 99.

Jeffery Nova, the son of Gail Nova, who had lived in the facility for eight years, told the Miami Herald that he had picked Hollywood Hills because it was so close to Memorial Hospital. “If she needed care, they literally had only feet to go,” he said.

Promotional material on the nursing home’s web site boasts that it is located across the street from the hospital, guaranteeing that “our patients have access to even more of the finest health care at all hours of the day and night.”

It remained unclear why nursing home staff waited so long to call for help, as the hospital never lost power or air conditioning during the storm or its aftermath.

The hospital had been designated as a “critical infrastructure facility” by Florida Power and Light and Broward County, while Hollywood Hills and nursing homes in general had not been designated as critical and were not a priority for the utility company.

FPL and Broward County officials sought to absolve themselves of any responsibly for the horror in the nursing home, each blaming the other for the failure to define nursing homes as critical facilities and seeking to shift blame onto the nursing home staff.

A spokesman for FPL claimed that the company did not consider Hollywood Hills a critical facility because Broward County had not designated it as such. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief in turn released a statement blaming FPL guidance documents for the county’s designation of nursing homes as “non-critical.”

Sharief also reported that while Hollywood Hills staff had reported to the county’s Emergency Operations Center that a tree had fallen on the air conditioner’s power transformer, no emergency responders were sent to investigate because they “did not request assistance or indicate any medical emergency existed.”

Hollywood Hills administrator Jorge Carballo reported that the facility had contacted FPL immediately about the damaged transformer and followed up repeatedly for updates on when a repair could be made.

Even after the tragedy at Hollywood Hills, 62 out of Florida’s 700 nursing homes remained without power on Thursday, leaving thousands of elderly residents at risk. At least 80 residents were evacuated from the Crystal Bay Assisted Living Facility in North Miami Beach Wednesday due to a lack of air conditioning. Century Village, a retirement community in nearby Pembroke Pines, remained without power Thursday.

Even as the disaster that has enveloped much of Florida in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath continued to unfold, President Donald Trump made a visit to Fort Myers and Naples on the state’s Gulf Coast to praise the government response to the storm. He made no reference to the deaths in Hollywood.

“We’re going to see some of the folks and make sure they’re happy,” Trump told reporters in Fort Myers, which was inundated by the storm surge. “I think we’re doing a good job in Florida.”

More than 150 people have been killed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and hundreds of thousands in the US have lost their homes or livelihoods, but the corporate media is boasting of the supposedly much improved response to these storms as compared to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. Citing the lower death toll in comparison to the more than 1,800 fatalities in Katrina, while ignoring the far wider impact of the recent storms in terms of homes destroyed, jobs lost and communities devastated, and the lack of planning and neglect of infrastructure exposed by this month’s hurricanes, the New York Times on Wednesday published a front-page lead article with the headline “US Shows Signs Of Improvement In Aid Response.”

Only hours later the news broke of the eight elderly Florida residents killed by official neglect and indifference in the aftermath of Irma.

This video from the USA says about itself:

12 September 2017

Jacksonville faced its worst flooding in nearly a century as Irma brought rain and record storm surge before moving north to dump rain on Georgia and South Carolina.

By Matthew Taylor in the USA:

Jacksonville area staggered by flooding, power outages from Hurricane Irma

15 September 2017

Across the city of Jacksonville and the surrounding counties in northeast Florida, residents this week struggled to adapt to the destruction brought by Hurricane Irma. Widespread power outages, flood-damaged homes and businesses and the uncertain prospects of recovery combined with the oppressive late-summer heat to create an atmosphere of dread for the hundreds of thousands affected.

The storm knocked out power for 60 percent of the city, some 288,000 homes, according to the Jacksonville Electrical Authority (JEA), the utility company that provides power for the region. As of Thursday 66,000 remained without electricity.

The JEA release estimates that 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage had been released into various rivers and creeks throughout the area due to power losses at pump stations during the storm, a number that is sure to rise. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew last October, 7 million gallons of sewage spilled into area waterways.

In a press release Thursday, the company stated that 33 different pump stations went offline at various points during the storm. The company also stated that a major disaster was averted when eight JEA employees manually pumped fuel to keep a wastewater treatment center in the Mandarin neighborhood operational after its backup generator failed during the worst of the storm.

Throughout the region, many of the worst-hit areas were along the various creeks and smaller rivers that are tributaries of the St. Johns River, which flows through Jacksonville. Along the Trout and Ribault rivers in northwest Jacksonville, fallen trees and waist-high water destroyed many homes and businesses and left residents without power.

Along the Black Creek in neighboring Clay County, dozens of homes were either destroyed or suffered major damage when the water crested at a record 28.5 feet. Approximately 300 residents along the Black Creek were evacuated by boat in the following days. Throughout Clay County, there are an estimated 37,500 homes without power.

In the Jacksonville beaches communities, which had also been hard hit by Hurricane Matthew last year, ocean waters flooded thousands of homes. The damage at the beaches and throughout northeast Florida was aggravated by a powerful nor’easter storm that inundated the area with heavy rains in advance of the hurricane.

Within Jacksonville, major flooding has damaged low-lying areas throughout the city, with the flood waters subsiding by Wednesday. In downtown Jacksonville, which experienced its worst flooding in recorded history, work crews labored to clean up the massive amounts of sludge and debris that the flooding brought ashore. Many businesses were damaged by the heavy winds, with broken windows and downed power lines throughout the area. Some of the largest employers, such as EverBank, CSX, and Wells Fargo, avoided serious damage and had already resumed operations.

Across the river in the low-lying San Marco area, where flooding had reached up to four feet, hundreds of homes and small businesses were destroyed. In the Riverside area adjacent to downtown, where flood waters had extended four blocks from the river and many residents were evacuated by boat, dozens of power company and landscaping crews worked to clean up debris and restore electricity.

In the Broadview Towers condominium building along the river, dozens of residents, many of them elderly, were trapped inside the 14-story building when flood waters covered the first floor and knocked out the building’s power, including its elevators and air conditioning. Restoring power took on a newfound urgency after it was revealed on Wednesday that eight residents of a Hollywood, Florida, nursing home died from the extreme heat caused by a lack of air conditioning.

Outside the city, the surrounding counties that make up the greater Jacksonville area were also hard hit. South of Jacksonville in St. Johns County, damage from the storm surge was compounded by multiple tornadoes that tore the roofs off of many homes. In St. Augustine, which had been hard hit by Hurricane Matthew last year, flood waters covered the historic downtown and spread out into surrounding areas. In Hastings, a rural community in St. Johns County, sections of the town were under as much as eight feet of water. Throughout the county, there are an estimated 40,000 homes still without power.

To the north of Jacksonville, in Nassau County, hundreds of homes were damaged by the hurricane and from multiple tornadoes that touched down in the region. More than 20,000 homes lost power. As of Thursday, over 10,000 still had no electricity. Dozens of roads were made impassable from flood water and fallen trees, and the Fernandina Beach municipal airport was closed until further notice. County officials report that a citizen in one of the cities shelters had died during the storm.

In tiny Baker County, along the border with Georgia, It was reported that 97 percent of residents lost power.

Throughout Northeast Florida, thousands of residents will suffer from not only the immediate damage caused by the storm but also the loss of income from being unable to work in the aftermath. Thousands of workers will be unemployed due to businesses that will be closed due to lack of electricity and flood damage. Thousands more will be unable to work due to damaged cars, blocked roads, and bridges, and the necessity to provide child care for the region’s thousands of students while the public school system is shut down.

Two million in Florida still without power nearly a week after Hurricane Irma: here.

THE CARIBBEAN CAN’T CATCH A BREAK Multiple storms are brewing in the Atlantic, prompting hurricane warnings. [HuffPost]

HURRICANE MARIA SLAMS INTO DOMINICA AS CATEGORY 5 STORM Caribbean islands are bracing for impact as the hurricane ravages Dominica, causing “widespread devastation.” [HuffPost]

Floridians line up for food assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma: here.

Hurricane Harvey disaster not over for Texas, USA people


This video from the USA says about itself:

[Fundamentalist televangelist] Megachurch Leader Joel Osteen Keeps Doors Shut During Hurricane Harvey

4 September 2017

Megachurch leader Joel Osteen closed church doors to victims of Hurricane Harvey because he was safe and sound in his $10 million home. ThinkTank’s Hannah Cranston breaks it down.

By Tom Hall in the USA:

Media and political establishment begin to move on as Houston residents return to devastated city

5 September 2017

As the floodwaters begin to recede along the Texas Gulf Coast, hundreds of thousands of displaced residents are returning to scenes of devastation.

Approximately 156,000 dwellings have been flooded. An estimated one million cars have been destroyed in a sprawling city where access to a vehicle is a basic necessity. The city of Beaumont, Texas, east of Houston, still does not have clean drinking water, nearly a week after the city’s water treatment facilities went offline.

Conditions have been created for any number of public health crises, from mosquito-borne diseases and bacteria-infested floodwaters, to contamination from chemical plants, oil refineries and Superfund sites. Authorities carried out a controlled burn on Sunday at a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, where fires have been raging after floodwaters knocked out the facility’s generators. The immense psychological toll of the hurricane will also likely produce a mental health crisis in the region, as in New Orleans, when the area experienced a suicide epidemic in the months after Katrina.

The devastation along the Gulf Coast could be repeated within a few days by Hurricane Irma, which has been upgraded to Category 4 [later to Category 5] and it makes its way through the Atlantic Ocean. Current forecasts predict that Irma will pass near Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba, before making landfall in the United States near Miami, the 8th largest metropolitan area.

While the full impact of Hurricane Harvey is only beginning to be felt, the American political establishment and the corporate media are moving to put it behind them as quickly as possible. Over the past two days, their focus has shifted to North Korea, seizing upon the North Korean government’s alleged test of a hydrogen bomb to issue provocative war threats while burying the ongoing catastrophe in Texas.

From the beginning, the media has sought to cover up the social and political causes of the devastation wrought by the hurricane, avoiding any discussion of the neglect of infrastructure that scientists have warned about for years, and of the incompetent and indifferent response of government officials to the catastrophe.

The New York Times, which sets the tone for the rest of the American media, has run a series of articles minimizing the impact of the storm and its class implications. On Thursday, the Times published an article, “Storm With ‘No Boundaries’ Took Aim at Rich and Poor Alike,” which explicitly rejected any comparisons with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in which the immense class divide in New Orleans was revealed by “the desperation of the poor stranded at the Superdome and the devastated, largely black, low-income neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward, which were among the ones most likely to suffer catastrophic flooding and the last ones to recover.”

It is, however, the poor who will be most devastated by Harvey as with Katrina, without access to insurance and unable to rebuild on the paltry aid from the federal government, mainly in the form of loans.

The insurance industry is expected to pay out only $10 to $25 billion in claims resulting from the storm, a tiny portion of the $180 billion in estimated damages. Most homeowners will receive no insurance payments for flooding damage because they do not own flood insurance, which is optional outside of federally designated flood zones. The insurance industry is sitting on between $150 and $300 billion of excess capital, according to Barron’s, equivalent to between 80 to 170 percent of the total cost of the storm.

The federal government will make available $7.8 billion dollars for relief funding, based on the initial proposal from the Trump administration. Even this, however, will not go towards new or expanded programs, but will primarily be used to fund the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s existing Disaster Relief Fund, which caps payments to individuals at $33,000 (with the majority receiving far less).

The other main source of “relief” funding will come in the form of loans from the Small Business Administration, headed by former pro wrestling executive Linda McMahon. Anyone applying for SBA funds must prove that they will be able to pay back their loans before their application is accepted, with the vast majority of applicants rejected, according to Politico.

The Times acknowledges that there are “huge differences between the options open to the poor and the well-to-do,” before insisting on its basic point: “What is clear is the devastation is connecting people of disparate means in one common experience: loss.”

The other major theme in the media coverage is that life is quickly returning to normal in Houston. On Sunday, the Times ran an article, “21 Miles of Highway, Snapshots of a Resilient Houston,” which enthused that Houston “can often be a place of remarkable heart and grit, a city built on inhospitable ground that fully expects to rebuild from the storm’s ravages.” Another Times article proclaims, “Hurricane to Cost Tens of Billions, but a Quick Recovery is Expected.”

The presentation of a quick and full recovery is aimed at obscuring the extent of the destruction, covering up for the paltry character of the government response, and setting the stage for businesses to resume profitable operations, and even seize on the opportunity.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, proclaimed on Sunday that “the City of Houston is open for business.” He continued, “Look, people are feeling good. Even at this shelter where we are right now… We’re not going to engage in a pity party.” Here Turner echoes the delusional and callous statement by Trump the previous day at a Houston shelter, when he declared, “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing,” and “They’re really happy with what’s going on.” Neither Trump nor Turner’s comments met with any significant backlash in the press.

As reflected in the media response, the ruling class is pulling together in response to Harvey, not to make the people of Houston whole, but to cover their own tracks.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the top-ranking Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, issued a joint statement indicating their willingness to work with the Trump administration on its domestic agenda, which includes a massive corporate tax cut. “Providing aid in the wake of Harvey and raising the debt ceiling are both important issues, and Democrats want to work to do both … Given the interplay between all the issues Congress must tackle in September, Democrats and Republicans must discuss all the issues together and come up with a bipartisan consensus,” the statement said.

The response in the media and the political establishment follows what is by now a well-worn pattern repeated after every major disaster, whether a hurricane, flood, tornado or wildfire. During the events themselves, they avoid any serious examination of the social and political conditions that prepared it. Once the waters recede, fires are extinguished, or the winds stop, the media works as rapidly as possible to divert popular attention from the class issues raised by the disaster to topics in line with the basic strategic interests of the American ruling class.

HOUSTON FAMILIES FACING RENT PAYMENTS ON FLOODED PROPERTIES “We don’t have any money. We don’t have anything.” [HuffPost]

Saudi absolute monarchy kills Yemeni Red Crescent founder


This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Can’t Stop Bombing Hospitals & Schools In Yemen

17 August 2016

After the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombed a hospital in Yemen supported by Doctors Without Borders on Monday, the U.S. State Department offered a rare condemnation of the coalition’s violence.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Yemen: ‘Saudis to blame’ for death of Red Crescent founder

Monday 4th September 2017

THE son of Yemen’s Red Crescent founder has blamed Saudi Arabia for his father’s death.

Zubair al-Khamesi, whose father Abdullah died in the Ibn Sinaa hospital in Sanaa on Friday, told the Guardian “he died because of lack of access to lifesaving medicine.”

Mr Khamesi’s doctor Mohammed al-Kaattaa said his family had made heroic efforts to obtain stents, which are used in treating narrow and clogged arteries, but the closure of Sanaa airport and a blockade imposed by the Saudis slowed the treatment.

Zubair added that his father could have lived had it been possible to get treated in Egypt or Jordan, but “the Saudis have stopped the planes.

“You are angry, you can’t do anything — but it’s not the [doctors’] fault, it’s the king of Saudi Arabia and [the emirs] of the Emirates” [a confederation of seven absolute monarchies each ruled by an emir].

Saudi restrictions on Yemen’s airspace, to allow its bombers free range as they pound the country’s hospitals and schools, allow a limited number of aid flights in but no commercial flights in or out.

Mr Khamesi founded Yemen’s Red Crescent in the 1970s. It is estimated to have saved thousands of lives since that time and has fought a desperate battle to provide humanitarian assistance to civilian victims of the Saudi-led war on the country which has raged since 2015.

Recent activities have included providing meals and clean water to Yemenis displaced by bombing and setting up makeshift schools with professional counsellors for children affected by the war.

Yemen’s cholera outbreak surpasses 600,000: here.

French Macron party politician beats socialist into hospital


This video from France says about itself:

27 July 2017

President Emmanuel Macron‘s “La République En Marche” party is having its first teething problems, as it transitions from a grassroots movement to France’s most powerful political organisation. Its members are being asked to vote on “statutes”, the written rules which would determine the party’s leadership structure. The vote was supposed to be a formality, but it’s causing tensions among members who want more of a say in the party’s future. Claire Paccalin-Williams and Karina Chabour report.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant today:

MP of Macron‘s party injures socialist politician into hospital

A member of the Macron party La République and Marche has been charged because he has beaten a socialist politician with his scooter helmet into hospital. The socialist got into a coma, had to be operated and still has trouble talking, says his lawyer.

By Peter Giesen

It is a known risk for new parties like [Macron‘s] La République and Marche: attracting successful applicants and candidates who do not turn out to have bad behavior. Half of their group in the National Assembly consists of ‘civic politicians’ without political experience. But so far, they are mainly in the news because of their amateurism and lack of knowledge of parliamentary procedures.

The real scandals are caused by politicians who have switched from the socialists to the Macron party. Against their caucus’ Vice President Richard Ferrand there is court inquiry into conflicts of interest in a real estate transaction for his former employer, an insurance corporation.

Last week, the government of French President Emanuel Macron detailed its plans to rewrite the country’s labor code, aiming to remove all legal barriers for business to lay off workers, lengthen working hours, and slash wages and benefits: here.

Three days before its presentation of decrees to destroy the labor code on August 31, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a series of measures to complete his break with what remains of the “French social model”. Under the pretext of “modernizing” social welfare systems, the government of French President Emanuel Macron is setting out to destroy all the social rights the working class gained in struggle during the 20th century: here.