Fearing riots, Guard rejects food airdrops
ARLINGTON, Va. — Authorities are avoiding airdropping provisions into New Orleans — the traditional way of supplying disaster victims — out of fear of sparking riots, a state official said.
While the military has used helicopters to drop provisions to some stranded in New Orleans, authorities have not launched the massive supply airdrops seen in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Several C-130 Hercules aircraft are stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, but authorities have not ordered them to drop supplies to flood victims, Arkansas Air National Guard officials said.
Airdropping supplies could actually worsen the situation, said Army National Guard Lt. Kevin Cowan, with the state Office of Emergency Preparedness.
“Just like Afghanistan, you drop food, it creates chaos,” Cowan said.
He said authorities are looking for a more controlled way to get badly need food and other supplies to people in the hurricane-ravaged region who need it.
“We’re trying to logistically to plan how to get food the best way,” Cowan said. “But as of right now, airdrops are not part of the plan.”
He said dropping supplies from the air is an option that is still available, but “I don’t think that is high on the priority list.”
Officials at U.S. Northern Command and Task Force Katrina could not be reached in time for publication Friday.
Little Rock Air Force Base is home to about 80 C-130s, but many cannot be flown because of wing cracks, wrote a spokesman for the 314th Air Wing in an e-mail.
On Friday, four C-130s from Little Rock Air Force Base were expected to bring water and MREs to the flood region and to evacuate refugees, wrote Air National Guard Capt. David Faggard.
The Arkansas National Guard is using 10 C-130s and 15 helicopters to bring troops and supplies to the flood region, said a National Guard spokeswoman.
Should authorities order an airdrop, “we are certainly ready if that’s what they need us for,” said Air National Guard Capt. Kristine Munn.
From October to December 2001, the Air Force dropped 2.5 million individual rations in Afghanistan using C-17 Globemaster aircraft based in Ramstein, Germany.