Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Orleans vs Mumbai - a new look

I got the following the other day in email... from a variety of sources, and felt strongly about it. My comments follow the contents of the email

[click here to skip this and jump to my comments]

[begin email content]

New Orleans vs. Mumbai

I couldnt' stop forwarding you this comparison...

Inches of rain in new orleans due to hurricane katrina... 18”
Inches of rain in mumbai (July 27th).... 37.1”

population of new orleans... 484,674
population of mumbai.... 12,622,500

deaths in new orleans within 48 hours of katrina...100
deaths in mumbai within 48hours of rain.. 37.

number of people to be evacuated in new orleans... entire city..wohh
number of people evacuated in mumbai...10,000

Cases of shooting and violence in new orleans...Countless
Cases of shooting and violence in mumbai.. NONE

Time taken for US army to reach new orleans... 48hours
Time taken for Indian army and navy to reach mumbai...12hours

status 48hours Orleans is still waiting for relief, army and electricity
status 48hours later. Mumbai is back on its feet and is business is as usual's most developed nation
India...third world country..

[end email content]

This is what I feel on this
I think the author of this email [and people who are forwarding this gleefully] are forgetting one very interesting and important statistic:

Number of Levees broken in Mumbai : 0
Number of Levees broken in New Orleans : 1

Please do not forget that the crisis in New Orleans is not due to rainfall, but due to the breaking of the levees that protected this low lying city from the waters of the adjoining lake. That is what caused the submerging of the city and the need for evacuating all its inhabitants.

I shudder to think what would have happened to Mumbai if 80% or more of the city would have gotten under 8 feet or more of water. Add to that the fact that New Orleans is situated under sea level and the water will not just flow out.

People, credit should be given when it is due [like this post on the Indian voting machines doing a better job compared to the American ones] , but not every opportunity should be used to promote the cause of how India is so much better.

I wish that this article reaches the guys happily forwarding this email - and they see the point, or the lack theirof, in this action.

Also, I request all of you to come forward and help out with the relief efforts going on for the people affected by the hurricane. And yes, please stop forwarding that email.



  1. Anonymous9:30 PM

    face the ugly side of the indian mentality "schaudenfraude" at anything that might go wrong in the west or US. it is cultivated by corrupt leaders. people who look at facts like you are far and between. army boats and choppers were flying in the same afternoon in big easy by the way. read NYT. US/LA authorities must be held responsible nonetheless but the bar in the US they are held to is significantly higher than in mumbai. there are thousands of bodies submerged in new orleans. am sure that makes the email writers crazy with their glee.

  2. Rajini11:02 PM

    Animesh, You're right about the fact that we shouldn't really compare tragedies....they are tragedies whether in a third-world country or the world's richest country. I came across an interesting article that looks at this disaster from an engineer's point of view. Thought it would be nice to share:

    Our piercing question "What Happens in New Orleans?" is a result of New Orleanean history, dating back to 1713 when the French colonist Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville ignored his engineers’ warnings about the hazards of flooding in the settlement he planned. Unconcerned by dangers, he mapped the settlement in a pinch of swampland between the mouth of the Mississippi River, a massive Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The city of New Orleans grew to be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States undisturbed by its water boarders, despite its altitude being below sea level. Somehow, until this week, the threat of flooding did not materialize. Even early Tuesday morning it appeared that Katrina’s winds left the water boarders from flooding. When the massive rainfall followed the Hurricane, however, the levees holding back the lake and river were overwhelmed and when the city’s pumping stations could no longer keep water out, Bienville’s miscalculations could no longer be ignored. Several levees have 100 to 200 foot (33 m to 67m) gaps that the US Army Corpse of Engineers estimates will take several days to shore up using a massive number of helicopters and will take months to repair. In the meantime some 80% of New Orleans is under standing water ranging from 4 to 30 feet (1.3 m to 10 m) deep. It is too early to estimate the number of dead, and too late to second-guess the wisdom of a businessman who built a wonderful city that mocked the warning of his engineers for nearly 300 years, only to be devastated in less than 300 minutes.

    Certainly none of us engineers were around to be blamed for this, nor can we blame city planners who built the best possible flood prevention mechanism they could. Perhaps this tragedy has a message for us engineers that we may be taking our jobs less seriously then we should. How many of us would have said to Bienville, “I will not build this city because as an engineer I know the disaster that could befall it and I cannot contribute to a disaster?” How many of us engineers stop a product from being shipped to customers when we know it is not tested sufficiently? Perhaps we can rationalize it by saying we only make (cell phones, or computers, or radios, or PDAs, or oscilloscopes, or memory boards, etc.) – nobody’s life is depending on it. But we know that it could, and perhaps one day it will, and we will know whose fault it will be. Let’s keep to our mission as professionals. Let’s remember New Orleans (as we are sure we will rebuild her) and make all faults ours – and let’s work to identify and eliminate them before anyone else gets hurt. We cannot correct the mistakes of our colleagues in the 18th century, but we can stop from making similar mistakes in the 21st.

  3. Sumit Jain3:06 AM

    I partly agree with what animesh says but definitely would like to say that this email might sound a bit crazy but definitely it makes a point that WE should pe proud to be called an Indian. Many people have a misconception that THE WEST(or for that matter the US) is the leader of every technology and that people are nice and polite and have more morals than the indians. Consider the example the author of the email given of the robbery. This reflects the fact that Indians do have more moral values and empathize with feloow countrymen as compared to the americans and I am proud of this very fact that instead of looting in wake of the floods, people were helping and going out of their way to help and save others and not shooting at the helicopters and making most out of the situation. This makes us proud that being poor doesnt give people enough reason to start looting others in such cases. I think 'being proud' in this email is not emphasized by comparing the number of deaths but yes by the fact s like the time taken by the army to reach and start relief measures and steps taken by the government. Comparison of these facts definitely makes me proud of belonging to such country. Definitely the cause of tragedies cannot be compared and is rather irrelevant and foolish.

  4. Anonymous3:15 AM

    It's really sad that even after reading Animesh's blog, and the replies to it. Just when i thought that there were still sensible people out there. I read the blog about looting in New Orleans. Hello!!! doesn't anyone realize that the news we get is thru the medium of American news channels, which by habit have a way of showing what all has gone wrong. They just ignore the fact that hundreds of people are actually helping out. Even our university is helping the students who are unable to attend their respective degrees in New Orleans to complete them and continue their studies at USC. Does this reflect LOW moral standards? Does the fact that when the tsunami hit south east asia the students in USC were selling bands to help gather money for the tsunami victims also reflect low maral standards? People please stop comparing two communities. Communities don't have low morals it is INDIVIDUALS who have low maral standards!

  5. Sumit Jain5:26 AM

    How can you comment a plain fact that "which by habit have a way of showing what all has gone wrong". So you mean to say that every (yes every !) new they say is hyped and/or false. Now you are blaming the community of the news channels in america! I dont say that EVERY american has no morals. Do you realize when people say that e.g. Pakistan is a terrorist state or blacks here are main source of crime. Do you then argue that not every pakistani is a militant and not every black is a criminal! Dude you cannot pin point and say that this is a criminal and he is not. You always go by the ratio and dont start counting. Is there no difference between NO/VERY LESS CRIMES in mumbai rains and a lot looting in orleans case. If you feel that this is the same and holds no comparison then I can really help you but will really suggest that do let your stubborn ideas a break !

  6. Anonymous9:05 PM

    Sumit, you feel proud of being an indian because american victims of hurricane suffered longer than they should have???? you did fail to look up that word "schaudenfreude" at the top. it does reflect a rather sickness of mind. be proud because (and when) you actually know people were _not_ ripped off at airports, stations during the mumbai deluge and when you know the money for the victims wasn't siphoned off by corrupt politicians who are so damn happy to find perfect apologists like you to "blame the west". be responsible. you are helping their deniability. you are feeding like a vulture on the tragedy of american victims. in decades of living in the US, i never once saw americans gloating on the tens of thousands of deads from typhoons, earthquakes, floods in south asia or elsewhere. it is time for _you_ to reflect.

  7. Bharat4:32 AM

    Its all in the way you look at an opinion, I don't think the mailer anywhere mentions that Indians should be proud that they did not resort to looting. It just points to a sad fact that some people in New Orleans did, atleast that's the way I saw it. And that's the only point in the mailer worth 'comparison', if you'd call so. Because its inhuman to compare two tragedies like this. Also I see the 'comparison' aimed more for the people in US, who should try and learn from their so called 'third world' brethren who did not resort to animal acts of shooting/violence/looting under such circumstances.

    But by reading opinions what pains me most is opinion of people who immediately jump and brand the entire "Indian Mentality" as Schadenfreude (?), isn't that a blatant generalization? I'd actually like to point to another post and the manner it has been portrayed in animesh's blog:

    "... One wonders why someone would shoot rescuers, but then what do you expect from a man who sees his mother dying while he can see ambulances taking people away ..."

    a really sad situation and I pray to god that nobody ever faces it again, but try and think of the same unfortunate case happening in India, would it have been presented in the same manner? If an Indian starts shooting at the rescuers while they are helping every possible person out of their misery, my guess is this blog and many of its commentators would have left no stone unturned to curse and condemn that act, instead of trying to justify it, as done here.

    Ask yourself honestly, won't you condemn it ? But why this dual standard ? Actually this is what feeds reverse negative thoughts.

    Agreed that India has loads to learn from a leading nation like US, but why feel bad/ashamed to accept that there still are many things US has to learn from India. What the mailer writes has just one of them, but it tries to bring it out by 'comparing' calamities, which is sad and has generated this discussion, else if it was done to compare, say voting machines (as Animesh points), I don't think emotions would've flared.

  8. I totally agree with your point. One correction. At least two levies (Maybe 3) were broken in New Orleans. BTY, awesome site.

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