Aljazeera, Aug. 2, 2011
When news of the disastrous BP oil well explosion reached the residents of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana last April, Mayor Tim Kerner did the only thing he could think of to stop the oil from destroying his community. He encouraged everyone in his town to join him on the water, working day and night throughout the disaster to clean-up the spill.
Now, one year after BP managed to cap the runaway well that fouled the Gulf of Mexico with an estimated five million barrels of oil, most of those people are ill.
"I'm afraid my neighbors will come to me and say, I wouldn't have listened to you and kept my job if I knew it would kill me," Kerner said.
Kerner's story was one of many shared by Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, at a briefing Wednesday evening, the day after she led a delegation to the Gulf Coast to assess the scope of the emerging healthcare crisis in the wake of the BP drilling disaster.
"The residents are sick," Kennedy said. "They don't know what the exact cause of their illness is, but because they never suffered this way before the spill and they were all out on their fishing boats throughout the clean-up, they suspect this has something to do with the toxins."