Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Post-Katrina symbols

After returning from New Orleans this week I can happily report that the French Quarter is still intact and lively after Katrina. Jamil Sharif and his band at the Maison Bourbon is a must-see. Alas, other areas of New Orleans didn't fare as well. The Ninth Ward is still devasted. The whole area is abandoned and homes are in various states of destruction; debris piles are everywhere. On the outskirts there a few businesses open and some people sitting on their porches, indicating that some have returned.

Many structures, including the ones now occupied again had these mysterious spray-painted symbols on them. I assumed that they were used by the search and rescue teams but couldn't decipher them. Fortunately, this site provided some insight:

When they enter a structure to search for survivors, they put a slash on the building (usually in orange spray paint) with the date to the right of it and some type of identification for the search team on the left. Then they "cross the X" on the way out of the structure, writing body counts at the bottom and other hazards to the right. (That way, if they get in trouble and never come back out, another crew can tell which building they're stuck in because the X isn't crossed.) [...] The V with a line through it is also a symbol used to indicated the presence of deceased victims, whereas a V with no line through it means survivors were found.

Some messages such as "Help Help" were unfortunately less cryptic.


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