The latest reports are suggesting that delays caused by civil unrest, logistical problems and administrative challenges could lead to many more deaths in New Orleans in the next few days.[@@]
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin estimated Tuesday that Hurricane Katrina already had killed thousands of people in his city alone. He says residents are continuing to die because they are trapped or, even if they have found safety, have little or no food and water.
CNN reported today that there are many dead bodies in and around the same New Orleans convention center where so many insurance industry events have taken place over the years.
Meanwhile, state and federal officials say shootings and other criminal attacks have forced them to delay or suspend many rescue operations.
CNN also is reporting that some outlying communities that had thousands of residents before Katrina struck have disappeared entirely.
Some experts have suggested that many of the storm victims may have died because they were too poor to evacuate. Those victims may have had little or no life insurance.
But the Gulf Coast has a long tradition of being a strong market for funeral insurance and other life insurance policies with relatively low face values. New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras parades have been organized in part by groups descended from the old African-American burial societies, which were nonprofit fraternal funeral insurers.
Many insurance companies and insurance organizations are still trying to learn what has happened to their own Gulf Coast members and employees.
National Underwriter was not immediately able to make contact with Pan-American Life Insurance Company, a life and health insurer with headquarters in New Orleans, and its Web site and telephone lines have been down since Katrina hit. Rumors surfaced that some employees were regrouping in Florida. One Pan-American Life employee has posted a message in the hurricane forums of WWL-TV, a New Orleans television station, seeking information about fellow employees. The message is at http://www.wwltv.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=13073
Other insurance and benefits companies discussed in the WWLTV “major corporations” forum include Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, which has been looking for 4 employees from Metairie, La., and Kenner, La., and Total Benefit Services Inc., New Orleans, which is asking all employees to call a number in Baton Rouge, La.
In related news:
- New York Life Insurance Company, New York, has agreed to contribute to the American Red Cross, Washington, and match contributions from employees, agents and retirees dollar for dollar.
“New York Life understands that in time of hardship you need people to turn to,” New York Chairman Sy Sternberg says in a statement about Katrina. “For over 160 years, we’ve stood by our customers through our nation’s greatest struggles and disasters, and we are here for you now.”
The company has pledged to pay all claims swiftly.