Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch says what the U.S. is seeing is dwarfed by the massive flow of refugees into other countries, such as Italy.
It’s been a relatively quiet storm season, but Tropical Storm Karen is expected to bring winds and heavy rains to the Gulf Coast region this weekend.
States of emergency have been declared in Louisiana, Mississippi and part of Florida.
In advance of the storm, traffic was halted at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and the New Orleans Saints are leaving early for their game Sunday in Chicago against the Bears.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
This is HERE AND NOW. Emergency officials in Louisiana are already beginning to evacuate some residents to prepare for Tropical Storm Karen. The storm, which could become a hurricane, is approaching the Gulf Coast and is expected to make landfall sometime late tomorrow. A hurricane watch is in effect for a wide swath of the coast.
Joining us now for more is Kevin Davis, executive director of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Welcome to HERE AND NOW.
KEVIN DAVIS: Thank you very much.
HOBSON: Well, tell us about what is happening today and how you're getting ready for this storm.
DAVIS: Yes, certainly. Here in Louisiana, we are activating all of our state agencies and all of our partners through communication here in Louisiana, especially those coastal parishes. We do have some evacuations on the low-lying areas in Plaquemines and St. John Parish at this point. We do have - many of the parishes declared states of emergency, which then gives them the authority as they're mobilizing and going through their systems, as we're going into a weekend, to make sure we have the capability with manpower to support whatever need might arise.
HOBSON: Is the government shutdown affecting preparations at all?
DAVIS: No. We worked those issues out yesterday with the military and FEMA. So people were brought back in to help support us here in Louisiana.
HOBSON: How serious of a storm are you looking at right now? Of course, we all remember Hurricane Katrina. You're not expecting anything of that magnitude. Or are you?
DAVIS: No. I mean, that was a huge storm. But all of these storms we take very seriously here, because of the potential of life-threatening - you know, you get the winds, trees could come down, flood waters and the like. So this certainly is a tropical storm at this point, possibly a hurricane level one - not real sure about that at this point as we get more out of the National Hurricane Center.
But we just need to make sure that we're prepared, and our residents are ready, just in case.
HOBSON: How much more prepared is the state of Louisiana this time around, because of the experience that you've had with Katrina? We know there are much bigger levees, for example, around New Orleans.
DAVIS: Yeah, certainly. All of those things have happened since Katrina, but more importantly, the governor has enacted response teams since Katrina. We deal directly with our local partners, which are parishes here in Louisiana, though our own folks who are on the ground with them and daily conference calls with the locals on anything that they may need. So much better prepared here in Louisiana.
HOBSON: Kevin Davis, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Thank you so much for joining us.
DAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.