The explosion where it all began
Some collateral damage
Rapidly approaching the Big Easy
Katrina II! Oil Slick Devastates New Orleans Coast
Everyone is worried about the birds, the wildlife and the environment, but what about Black people?
Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
“This is huge, a surprise, but a pleasant one,” said Ray Hagin, then Mayor of New Orleans. A federal judge had just ruled in a civil lawsuit that it was the negligence of the Army Corps of Engineers which resulted in the massive loss life, during Hurricane Katrina. Now five months after the ruling, up comes another environmental disaster, a man-made Katrina II, which threatens the entire Southern Coastal Region of the United States–off the Gulf of Mexico.
Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans decimating over a thousand residents–overwhelmingly Black residents–and rendering the survivors virtually homeless, the city has scarcely recovered. Now a British Petroleum (BP) disaster, a massive environmental tidal wave that is threatening the region that is still reeling from that hurricane. The disaster, entering its third week, has already begun to impact gasoline prices, seafood prices, tourism and a host of other quality-of-life issues that are not only unique to the region, but will ultimately spill over and affect much of the country.
President Barack Obama visited the region last weekend and he said in part, “….This is one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet, and for centuries its residents have enjoyed and made a living off the fish that swim in these waters and the wildlife that inhabit these shores. This is also the heartbeat of the region’s economic life. And we’re going to do everything in our power to protect our natural resources, compensate those who have been harmed, rebuild what has been damaged, and help this region persevere like it has done so many times before.”
Some estimates of the gushing oil leak put it at approximately 5,000 barrels a day and it could mount to roughly 20 percent of the nation’s oil consumption. In addition, if it continues unabated–since the weather is not cooperating–it could possibly reach up to 60,000 barrels a day, or 2.5 million gallons. It is already being compared to the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska, the worst spill in U.S. history, thus far.
The tragedy began on April 20, when an oil rig exploded killing 11 workers and sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, it has been spreading day by day, moving towards coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and moving outward into the open sea threatening to also reach the shores of Texas and Florida. And because of the gulf’s pattern of unpredictable waves and its propensity for deadly hurricanes, the coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba may become vulnerable to similar ecological fate.Unlike the hurricane–an act of nature–this oil spill was man-made and preventable. The toll on the entire region’s way of life for generations will very likely result in some social unrest. The lines have already started for supplemental substitute employment for those who have become unemployed because of the disaster.
Officials from all levels of government have been pouring into the region to work on the cleanup. While officials of BP are trying to explain to Congress their best estimates of what happened, why it happened, and when and if will it be fixed in a reasonable amount of time. According to congressional sources, their outlook is bleak; the tragedy and its negative impact of the environment will be here for quite some time. It continues to disrupt the region’s way of life and its dribbling effects will continue to affect the entire country: at the gas pumps, the grocery stores, hotels, tourism and the overall economy–from Wall Street to Main Street.
The company said that it would pay for all legitimate claims and the question was raised, ‘what constitutes a legitimate claim?’ Already President Obama’s ban on fishing has envisioned an estimated $1 billion economic loss to the fishermen, and that is just one of many industries that have been directly affected by Katrina II.