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News :: Social Welfare
Community Efforts To Save Algiers, New Orleans, Continue
11 Sep 2005
Efforts are continuing by grassroots organziers to preserve the still inhabited community of Algiers in New Orleans.
Community Efforts To Save Algiers, New Orleans, Continue

By Michael Steinberg
Black Rain Press

September 10—Efforts are continuing by grassroots organizers to preserve
the still inhabited community of Algiers in New Orleans. Algiers is
located on the west bank of the Mississippi across from downtown New
Orleans. It was not flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and
remains dry. The neighborhood has running water and electricity, and
utility workers are working to get the gas on.

Roger Benham, an EMT from Connecticut who has made his way to Algiers to
provide medical aid, reported on the latest developments to this
reporter in a phone interview at about 5:30 p.m Saturday.

“It’s our first full day of operating our first aid station,” he said.
“We’re trying to help people help themselves.” Benham and four other
heath care volunteers, including three other licensed EMTs, arrived at
midday on Friday with a van full of medical supplies. At the behest of
Algiers long time community activist Malik Rahim, they set up the first
aid station in the Masjid Bigal mosque on Teche Street.

Benham reported that a number of visitors to the first aid station today
were looking for prescription drugs they’d run out of. “Several of them
were vets who depend on the VA for their blood pressure medications,” he
said. “We gave out the meds we’re certified to administer. We also went
to visit elders in their homes nearby today. On one housecall I met a
101 year old woman. She’s doing fine.”

Benham had abruptly ended our phone interview Friday night. He explained
that was because of the rapid approach of a military unit. “That was
Civil Affairs,” he explained. “They’re going door to door doing a
census. There’s also paramedics with them, and FEMA paramedics as well.
They don’t quite know what to make of us. They’re trying to treat us as
community liaisons.” The Civil Affairs personnel are Army Special Forces
from Fort Bragg, NC.

“The FEMA medics were upset that we’re here, that we beat them to the
scene, “Benham reported. “They’re fire department paramedics, one from
San Diego and two from Idaho.

“FEMA’s supposed to be setting up a medical aid station as well,” he
said. “So far they’ve just set up razor wire. It’s next to a private
charity that’s been distributing water and food from a warehouse here.”

Benham said the electricity had gone on the day before. “Utility workers
are trying to get the gas on now,” he said. “Some people already have
gas. The city water never went off. So some people can boil it already,
but the authorities are saying to use bottled water.”

Benham said the neighborhood is continuing to be patrolled by the Army’s
First Cavalry. “The general vibe of the military is OK. Most of the
soldiers I talked to are just back from Iraq. They wanted to know how we
got [invited] in the mosque. We’re using the masalluh (sanctuary), and
they committed a no-no by coming in with their weapons. They realized
they made a mistake though.”

Benham reported that a US Navy amphibious assault ship anchored in the
Mississippi River near downtown New Orleans was visible from Algiers.

At this point Benham informed me that FEMA was likely listening in on
our call. “They called another of the EMTs I’m with,” he said. “They
asked him specific questions about a phone conversation he’d had here.”

Benham then said he had to pause because a loud Sea Stallion military
helicopter was flying over.

When our interview resumed, Benham told me that he’d asked a soldier
about how people who needed meds but don’t have money to buy them could
get help. “People who have money and can get a ride can go to drugstores
that are operating now in some nearby towns,” Benham explained. “But if
you don’t have money, the soldier said that you’d be taken to the
airport and issued the needed meds. Then though you’ll be put on a plane
and evacuated from the city. If you have family in a major city they’ll
take you there. If you don’t they’ll fly you wherever the plane is going.

“What we need here is an MD who can write prescriptions so people can
get meds we’re not registered to use.”

Benham said he’d seen some Danish journalists in Algiers today, but
other than that no media presence since his arrival Friday. “The Danish
journalists had been around New Orleans before they came here,” he
reported. “But this was the only part they’d seen that was still inhabited.”

Benham also said that Malik Rahim has organized more people to come to
Algiers to provide relief supplies and other support.
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