Biloxi Newspaper Rips Relief Effort, Begs for Help

By: Greg Mitchell

The Sun Herald of Biloxi, Miss., in an editorial today, criticized the relief effort in its ravaged area so far, and told officials and the nation-at-large: “South Mississippi needs your help.”

It angrily revealed: “While the flow of information is frustratingly difficult, our reporters have yet to find evidence of a coordinated approach to relieve pain and hunger or to secure property and maintain order. People are hurting and people are being vandalized.

“Yet where is the National Guard, why hasn’t every able-bodied member of the armed forces in South Mississippi been pressed into service?”

Pointedly, it declared that earlier today, “reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics.”

It added: “We need the president to back up his declaration of a disaster with a declaration of every man and woman under his command will do whatever is necessary to deal with that disaster.”

The newspaper has managed to publish two print editions this week as well as keep its Web site updated.

Here is the text of the editorial.

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The coastal communities of South Mississippi are desperately in need of an unprecedented relief effort.
We understand that New Orleans also was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but surely this nation has the resources to rescue both that metropolitan and ours.

Whatever plans that were in place to deal with such a natural disaster have proven inadequate. Perhaps destruction on this scale could not have been adequately prepared for.

But now that it has taken place, no effort should be spared to mitigate the hurricane’s impact.

The essentials — ice, gasoline, medicine — simply are not getting here fast enough.

We are not calling on the nation and the state to make life more comfortable in South Mississippi, we are calling on the nation and the state to make life here possible.

We would bolster our argument with the number of Katrina casualties confirmed thus far, but if there is such a confirmed number, no one is releasing it to the public. This lack of faith in the publics’ ability to handle the truth is not sparing anyone’s feelings, it is instead fueling terrifying rumors.

While the flow of information is frustratingly difficult, our reporters have yet to find evidence of a coordinated approach to relieve pain and hunger or to secure property and maintain order.

People are hurting and people are being vandalized.

Yet where is the National Guard, why hasn’t every able-bodied member of the armed forces in South Mississippi been pressed into service?

On Wednesday reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics.

Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!

When asked why these young men were not being used to help in the recovery effort, our reporters were told that it would be pointless to send military personnel down to the beach to pick up debris.

Litter is the least of our problems. We need the president to back up his declaration of a disaster with a declaration of every man and woman under his command will do whatever is necessary to deal with that disaster.

We need the governor to provide whatever assistance is at his command.

We certainly need our own county and city officials to come together and identify the most pressing needs of their constituents and then allocate resources to meet those needs. We appreciate the stress that theses elected and appointed officials have been under since the weekend but they must do a better job restoring public confidence in their ability to meet this challenge.

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