Australian hurricane survivors have attacked the Government for abandoning them in their hour of need. The eight said they pleaded with Australian officials for rescue from the putrid New Orleans Superdome but were told to find themselves a plane or train. Vanessa Cullington told the Herald Sun she begged for help as the Superdome, packed with 25,000 panicked refugees, descended into anarchy with shootings, rapes, suicides and assaults. Ms Cullington, 22, from Sydney, said the group, facing hostility from many refugees, were advised by army officials to leave the Superdome. She said they used their one phone call on a dying mobile phone on Wednesday to reach an Australian embassy official in Washington. "I stressed the direness of the situation, that we had encountered one suicide so far, and I explained that on that very morning we had been advised by a soldier . . . that there was one free road getting out of New Orleans, and that if you had a car you were to evacuate," Ms Cullington said. "He posed questions such as 'Why don't you go to the airport and find out if there are planes, why don't you call Amtrak (a train company)?'. "We had spent half an hour to 45 minutes just trying to get a line out and were so relieved when their telephone rang, and to be confronted with such questions -- I was surprised if he even knew what was going on." Ms Cullington said when she gave the official the names of the Australians in her group he scolded her, asking "why we didn't we leave our name with the Government and let them know we were in America when we left Australia". The official told Ms Cullington he would not help with a car, saying: "I am in Washington DC -- that's impossible." "I begged, I pleaded, I cried. I was stressed and told him we were in absolute dire straits," she said. "He was completely blase. He certainly gave me the impression that he didn't want to have any responsibility at all. "I just want to find out why the Australian Government didn't help us get out of that situation. I at least expected some sort of help. I felt abandoned."Continuing, the ABC News Australia in "Australians let down in hurricane chaos":
The Prime Minister has apologised to the Australians left stranded in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Australians trapped in the disaster zone have said they are angry their Government did not help them get out. "If any Australian feels the Government let them down I regret that," Mr Howard said. [...] The Prime Minister has defended the actions of consular staff in the United States. He told Parliament his Government appreciates the efforts of the Australian consular staff. "There has been criticism of them. I think that criticism on the basis of the facts known to me is unfair," he said. "Having said that, I fully understand the anxiety and anguish of families who are out of contact with loved ones in situations of apprehended danger and violence and their reaction is totally natural and totally human." Several Australian families say Commonwealth authorities treated them poorly as they tried to get information about relatives stuck on the US Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, the sister of Hurricane Katrina survivor Bud Hopes says her brother will never get over what he saw in the New Orleans Superdome. Bud Hopes's sister Debbie Brown says her brother and his companions found the aftermath worse than the hurricane. "They couldn't believe that human nature could turn into such a depraved thing," she said. "They were locked in this hellhole with no electricity, no water, no air, overflowing sewerage and the worst human behaviour that they could ever imagine."Australia's consular staff may be only one tiny piece of the Katrina bureaucratic disaster, but it's still a piece that needs to be carefully analysed. In the meantime, how can the Howard government justify not pushing the US government harder to get the Australian consulate into the devastated region to assist Australians struck by the Katrina?
[Tags: Bush | Howard | Bureaucracy | Consulate | Katrina | Aftermath | Politics | Power]