Communications Networks Fail Disaster Area Residents
A Washington Post article by Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Krim, via Yahoo! News, reports that:
Victims of Hurricane Katrina struggled to communicate with each other and the rest of the world yesterday, using everything from text messages to ham radio as most telephone service in New Orleans and coastal Mississippi remained devastated.
The near-blackout left outsiders desperate for news about loved ones, and in some cases created life-and-death situations as aid workers struggled to get information about people stranded by rising floodwaters in New Orleans.
Phone companies had trouble even comprehending the extent of damage to their systems because they could not get into some parts of the region. One telephone executive said the storm might have caused unprecedented damage to a communications infrastructure that people have come to take for granted.
BellSouth Corp., the dominant local telephone-service provider for the region, with a network that is also vital to wireless telephone systems, said as many as 1.75 million customers along the Gulf Coast may be without service. One reason the networks will be so difficult to restore is that damage to wireless towers and copper, coaxial and fiber-optic lines could be spread across an unusually wide section of the country, from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana.
The loss of service left residents nearly as frantic for communications as for food and shelter.