by J. D. Heyes
For many, the despair has grown into an intense anger, as tent cities set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency begin to resemble prison camps. Moreover, the aftermath of Sandy is a story the mainstream media is largely ignoring, unlike Hurricane Katrina. (http://www.alternet.org)
Stressed residents who spoke to the Asbury Park Press talked bitterly about the cold, harsh conditions in tent cities with Blackhawk helicopters buzzing overhead.
“Sitting there last night you could see your breath,” Brian Sotelo, a Seaside Heights resident who was at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River with his wife and three kids a half-hour before the shelter opened as superstorm Sandy approached last week, told the small press. “At (Pine Belt) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletive).”
This is where people start falling through the cracks
Sotelo is at a makeshift shelter that is called – ironically – “Camp Freedom.” But no one there feels free or secure – or comfortable.
“The elections are over and here we are. There were Blackhawk helicopters flying over all day and night. They have heavy equipment moving past the tents all night,” he said, an apparent reference to the difficulty he and his family – and other camp dwellers – have in trying to relax and get some rest.
Reported the paper: “Welcome to the part of the disaster where people start falling through the cracks.“
We suppose the paper was lucky to get any interview at all; no media is allowed inside “Camp Freedom,” which also serves as a base of operations for power company workers who are not from the area. Until recently, the camp was also a shelter where first responders, construction and utility workers could take a break, though the compound now contains a full-time shelter that is being maintained by the state Department of Human Services.
During the interview with the Asbury Park Press, Sotelo scrolled through pictures he took inside the camp as his wife, Renee, huddled for warmth inside their late-model Toyota Corolla which was stuffed with personal belongings, as they drove through the snow and slush to talk about what they have been through. Images he showed the paper included lines of outdoor porta-potties, of snow and ice penetrating the bottom of a tent, and of an elderly woman sitting alone, huddling beneath a blanket.
“All the while, a black car with tinted windows crests the hill and cruises by, as if to check on the proceedings,” the paper reported.
‘Everybody is angry over here’
Sotelo said “residents” of the tent city have recently become so frustrated with their situation, they are doing all they can to let the outside world know – but are being thwarted at every turn by the powers that be.
For instance, he says, officials have tried to stop camp dwellers from taking pictures, turned off the WiFi and have told residents they can’t charge their cell phones due to a lack of power.
“My six-year-old daughter Angie was a premie and has a problem regulating her body temperature,” Sotelo said. “Until 11 (Wednesday) night they had no medical personnel at all here, not even a nurse. After everyone started complaining and they found out we were contacting the press, they brought people in.”
“Every time we plugged in an iPhone or something, the cops would come and unplug them. Yet when they moved us in they laid out cable on the table and the electricians told us they were setting up charging stations. But suddenly there wasn’t enough power,” he continued.
Sotelo said there was a foot of water in his home when he was forced to leave. Now, he wonders why he isn’t allowed to return.
“Everybody is angry over here. It’s like being in prison,” he said.