Five years after Katrina, Obama vows to stand with Gulf
As the US Gulf Coast on Sunday marked five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the southern US shoreline, US President Barack Obama vowed to stand with New Orleans as the city continues to rebuild, dpa reported.
"Together, we are helping to make New Orleans a place that stands for what we can do in America not just for what we can't do," he said in a speech at Xavier University in New Orleans. "And ultimately, that must be the legacy of Katrina: not one of neglect, but of action; not one of indifference, but of empathy; not of abandonment, but of a community working together to meet shared challenges."
The speech was part of ceremonies across the region, remembering the category 3 storm that killed nearly 2,000 people and displaced more than 1 million Gulf Coast residents.
"It was a natural disaster but also a manmade catastrophe; a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women, and children abandoned and alone," Obama noted, pointing to the breakdown of government aid following the storm that saw many residents stranded in an emergency shelter at a sports complex or on the roofs of their homes.
More than 80 per cent of New Orleans was flooded and 70 per cent of its buildings damaged as Katrina overwhelmed the city's flood defenses. Five years on, the city's population is estimated at nearly 350,000, almost 80 per cent of pre-Katrina levels.
The president pointed to ongoing efforts to rebuild the region, including 170 ongoing projects, while noting much more remains to be done.
"While an incredible amount of progress has been made, on this fifth anniversary, I wanted to come here and tell the people of this city directly: my administration is going to stand with you and fight alongside you until the job is done," he said.
Louisiana has been faced with a second disaster as it commemorated the Katrina anniversary. Oil giant BP was still working to clean up the state's fragile coastline after the worst oil spill in US history hit the Gulf of Mexico in April.
Obama pointed to government efforts to deal with the spill and said his administration would also keep its promises to deal with that disaster even after plugging the gusher last month.
Prior to his speech, Obama along with his wife and daughters stopped at a local restaurant, where he ate the region's famous shrimp sandwich. The region's fishing industry has been hard hit by the oil spill and concerns about whether the food remains safe.
Despite the wave of disasters the city has faced, New Orleans residents are relatively upbeat about their future prospects as they ponder what the next five years might have in store.
A May-June poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 70 per cent believe New Orleans is headed in the right direction, though 59 per cent said the city had yet to fully recover from the storm.