Aug 31, USA (SUN) As we watch the grim images of the situation in New Orleans unfold, it is with great relief that we receive news from the New Orleans yatra, who made it through the actual landing of Hurricane Katrina. Bir Krishna das Goswami released this message yesterday morning:
"The devotees are fine in New Orleans. I just spoke to them last night after the hurricane was over, and the temple building was untouched, as was the residential building next to the temple. Today there is some flooding, but the devotees are continuing their service and have plenty of prasad. The Deities are accepting Their regular offerings and aratis."
While the New Orleans temple buildings were fine yesterday morning, we know things could be radically different by this point in time, given the day-long flooding of the breached levees there yesterday. The levees continue to flood the city at this hour, as the situation worsens.
The red marker on the map below marks the New Orleans temple, located at 2936 Esplanade Avenue. Several blocks to the west, a small blue line indicates the Moss Street canal (see arrow), which is almost certainly compromised due to the levee breach at Lake Pontchartrain in the north. We can only assume that by this hour, the New Orleans temple is significantly flooded.
67 miles northeast of New Orleans, the rural community at New Talavan, in Carriere, Mississippi, is stable. At 9:35 this morning, we received the following report via their satellite Internet connection:
Dear Maharajas, GBCs, Temple Presidents, Web & Magazine Editors and Devotees, Hare Krsna! Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
The power of the Lord's external energy is inconceivable. How one storm can destroy the social structure of an area ranging from 50 miles west of New Orleans all the way to Mobile, Alabama is stunning. In Mississippi, everything from Jackson on south is devastated. There are no commerce, transportation or other normal activities going on.
Despite our good fortune to have our temples in both New Orleans and New Talavan emerge relatively unscathed, the harsh reality is that there is no functioning society around us. The devotees in New Orleans are virtually trapped. Although they have supplies, there is no power, running water or cooking gas. The sanitation system is nonexistent. There is no water pressure in case of a fire, and water is till rising in the city from a 500-foot break in the river levee. This just came in this morning's news:
NEW ORLEANS - The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. "We've sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Army engineers struggled without success to plug New Orleans' breached levees with sandbags, and Blanco said Wednesday the situation was worsening, leaving no choice but to evacuate.
"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," Blanco said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "The National Guard has been dropping sandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into a black hole."
As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, four Navy ships raced toward the Gulf Coast with drinking water and other emergency supplies, and Red Cross workers from across the country converged on the devastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about 40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area in one of the biggest urban disasters the nation has ever seen.
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom were still trapped on rooftops and in attics.
A full day after the city thought it had escaped Katrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets of New Orleans on Tuesday, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.
"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come in," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."
Perhaps when civil and governmental authorities find the New Orleans devotees, they will ship them to New Talavan or engage them in cooking and serving meals to the other storm refugees. If anyone reading this has the ability to communicate by phone, please inform the New Orleans emergency authorities that there are at least 15 Hare Krsna devotees, including the devotees hurt in the recent accident, in urgent need of evacuation at 2936 Esplanade Ave., and if possible they need to get to New Talavan in Carriere, Mississippi, where our community can care for them.
New Talavan is a different situation. Although we have well water, LP cooking gas and some bhoga, supplies such as LP gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, dahl, rice, oats, cash etc. are running low and need to be rationed. There is no phone service, and the electricity will be out for at least two months. If we don't start our own massive cleanup operation, it will be months before the local government can clear the county roads. The devotees have already cleared the roads on the farm itself, but we are still cut off from the surrounding area.
[Ed note: The following message has now been received by FEMA and Red Cross officials. Please do not make additional calls to them to pass along this information, which they have already duly noted.] Our need and request is to please contact FEMA administrators (601 960-9999) and the Red Cross (800 GET-HELP). Inform them about our community in NW Hancock County, north of Leetown at 31492 Anner Road, We are providing water and meals for locals and 23 devotees on the temple property. If they can supply us with LP gas, rice, oats, beans, corn, canned tomatoes, butter and sugar, gasoline and diesel fuel to run our generator, etc., we can supply meals to many people from the surrounding community.
It is stunning and shocking to have your entire social system stripped down naked. There are some here who have lost their mental equilibrium, perhaps the greatest danger of such a disaster. All of our books distributors and Food for Life collectors worked the New Orleans tourist district, which is under water and will not reopen for months. We cannot even send or receive mail, which was another important source of income. All the banks and ATMs are closed and inoperative. Thus the only for us to receive funds is electronically. If you read this and want to send a donation, the only way at present is through PayPal.com. At least we can collect donations now and use them to purchase things online as soon as the postal system is functional again. The email addresses for dominations are email@example.com for New Talavan, and firstname.lastname@example.org for the New Orleans devotees.
For the time being, our schedule revolves around the sun coming up and going down. We have altered our sadhana and Deity schedules to accommodate the lack of lighting and water. Mangal-arati will continue to be at 4:30 but we are offering only burfy and milk. Afterwards, the devotees just chant japa. At sun-up around 7 AM, the devotees can bathe and dress the Deities. Then we cook and offer breakfast around 10 AM. Then again around 3 PM we can cook and offer about 6 PM, have arati, class and distribute prasadam. The daily temperatures are still in the 90s, so the devotees welcome and relish the cool mornings and evenings.
Please send us your prayers and let's not forget the two seriously injured boys in the ICU in El Paso. Lalita-pranesvara Prabhu is there alone caring for them. His cell phone number is (504) 638-4874. Please call him, since we cannot, and inspire him to continue his difficult service.
Although we are down, we are far from out; so with your prayers and blessings we will be back stronger than ever. Hoping this finds y'all relishing the mercy of Guru and Gauranga,
Yogindra Vandana das Adhikari