Another Loser in Sandy's Wake: the Red Cross

Its slow reaction has left some victims fuming

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 14, 2012 11:24 AM CST

(Newser) – Despite massive fundraising efforts, the Red Cross' response to Hurricane Sandy has left many victims unsatisfied, reports Reuters in a lengthy look at the group's efforts. It finds several factors fueling the disappointment:

  • In advance of the storm, the Red Cross set up five staging areas in places it didn't expect Sandy to hit; but in two of those places—Baltimore and Harrisburg, Penn.,—officials primarily helped local residents, and didn't send resources to harder-hit regions for days.
  • It had a hard time mobilizing aid because of traffic and chaos from the storm, and took three days to get to Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island.

  • Upon arriving in truly hard-hit spots, workers found that misconceptions about what the group actually does caused resentment. One New Yorker asked for help moving a 90-year-old bedridden woman to a shelter, only to be told the Red Cross doesn't assist with such transports. It also doesn't arrange cleanup operations. What it does do: supply food, operate shelters.
  • Red Cross's sheer size may also be a problem—smaller groups like Occupy Sandy or Doctor's Without Borders have been able to react faster.
  • But Red Cross argues it's doing the best it can: "No one organization, no government agency, could permanently be ready to respond to a disaster of this magnitude," says a Red Cross exec. It says that its 2,200 volunteers and 160 employees have helped give out more than 1 million meals or snacks.

A member of the Red Cross distributes food to residents of Coney Island affected by Superstorm Sandy in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.
A member of the Red Cross distributes food to residents of Coney Island affected by Superstorm Sandy in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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