Trust in disaster readiness low, poll finds

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Their confidence shaken by Hurricane Katrina, most Americans don’t think the nation is ready for another major disaster, an AP-Ipsos poll finds.

Poor people are more likely to fear becoming victims of the next disaster.

The survey, conducted one year after the devastating hurricane and with much of New Orleans still in a shambles, found diminishing faith in the government’s ability to deal with emergencies. It also gave President Bush poor marks for his handling of the storm’s aftermath.

The AP-Ipsos poll surveyed 1,001 adults from Aug. 7 to 9 and 1,000 adults from Aug. 15 to 17 and has a margin of error of three percentage points. Among the findings:

• Those making $25,000 a year or less were more likely to be worried about becoming a victim of a natural disaster than those making $75,000 or more.

• People with a high school education or less were among those with the strongest views that the country cannot handle another natural disaster.

• Fewer than one in five minorities approved of Mr. Bush’s handling of Katrina, compared with almost two in five whites.

Fifty-seven percent in the poll said they felt at least somewhat strongly that the country was ill-prepared — up from 44 percent in the days after the storm slammed ashore on Aug. 29. One in three Americans polled think Mr. Bush did a good job with Katrina, compared with 46 percent a year ago.

“Nobody actually realized soon enough what the scope of this thing was,” said Frank Sheppard, a 63-year-old retiree in Valrico, Fla., who considers himself strongly Republican. “The day after, people were actually celebrating. They didn’t realize that the levees were deteriorating and breaking at that time.”

One year after Katrina, large areas of New Orleans remain virtually uninhabitable, with piles of debris and wrecked cars.

Only $117 million in at least $25 billion in federal aid has reached the city, while federal investigators determined that about $2 billion in taxpayer money was wasted in no-bid contracts and disaster aid to people who did not need the help.

Norma Guelker, 55, of Bay St. Louis, Miss., still lives in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer after Katrina flooded her home with 7 feet of water. She says there is no way the government is ready.

Blaming Mr. Bush, she said: “There’s no reason for him to be concerned about the people who live here. They’re not the people who vote for him.”

Mr. Bush will visit the Gulf Coast today and tomorrow.

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