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Dealing with natural disasters

Year 2005 – Formed on August 23 and dissipated on August 30, Hurricane Katrina growed from Category 3 to Category 5 in just nine hours. For this reason, national and local authorities had to move fast. However, its 175 mph (280 km/h) were way too fast for everyone. Evacuation efforts were proved to be inadequate, since around 1,600 people died only in the state of Louisiana, which was partially evacuated. Moreover, response was not as fast as needed either, and this made public debate arose. In fact, the term “Katrinagate” was coined to describe this lack of planning.

Besides, government response was fiercely criticized as television networks transmitted the confusion prevailing in the local and national governments. Additionally, newspapers also contributed to generate this atmosphere of criticism, since they wrote categorical headlines such as the following ones, which can be seen in the Newseum‘s exhibition on Hurricane Katrina:

Year 2009 – On April 6, an earthquake devastated L’Aquila, a city in central Italy. In spite of being an earthquake of medium intensity (5.8 on the Richter scale), it killed more than three hundred people and injured 1,500 Aquilani. Although the city was in a critical condition, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declined foreign aid at first. This controversial decision generated considerable criticism and he finally accepted external aid.

The authorities were also very criticized because, despite the seismic activity of the previous days, they told people there was nothing to worry about. Therefore, most of the citizens stayed in their houses unconcernedly. Furthermore, as happened in the case of Hurricane Katrina, government response was slow and inefficient. Indeed, two years after the disaster, the heart of the city was still in ruins. However, Italian media, which are mainly controlled by Berlusconi, have always tried to project an image of normalcy.

About Ana Galán

Journalism and Film student (University of Richmond)

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