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New Orleans recovery entrenches inequality critics say

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New Orleans recovery entrenches inequality critics say



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New Orleans has been resurrected since Hurricane Katrina struck the US Gulf Coast, ten years ago. Nearly 2,000 people lost their lives in the destruction, and the disaster changed the face of the city.

Now the historic French Quarter is more inviting than ever; 9.5 million tourists visited last year. But while some areas are flourishing, others still struggle.

The Lower 9th Ward, a mainly African-American neighborhood, was hit hardest in 2005. Only a third of its resident have been able to come back.

Errol Joseph, 64, is finally rebuilding his house, with the help of unpaid volunteers. He said racism hampered earlier efforts: “It’s because we’re black.”

The number of African-American New Orleans residents has plunged by nearly 100,000 since the storm. There are now 10,000 fewer white residents, according to Census figures. Ten years ago, roughly eight tenths of New Orleans lay under water.

Steve Robinson and his father Fred have been able to rebuild, but want more help from the mayor for the city’s poorer parts.

Robinson said: “I would ask him, ask the mayor to concentrate more on this area of town and the surrounding parts of the city, because the Super Dome, French Quarter is not the only areas of the city – yeah it’s the money part of the city, but what about the people that’s been living around the city and outskirts of the city? What about us?”

At the site where the London Avenue Canal flood wall gave way, Sandy Rosenthal welcomes tourists at an open air museum. She blames much of the city’s flooding on the pre-2005 inadequate protection system.

“People arrive in Louis Armstrong Airport with a desire to understand what happened here, even though it’s been 10 years. And we’re glad that they do, because the survivors deserve for everyone to know the vetted facts about the flooding. The survivors deserve for everyone to know that we were flooded because of civil engineering failure, not due to just Mother Nature.”

New flood protection has cost nearly 15 billion dollars, designed to mitigate storm surge outside city limits. The environment also plays an important role. The wetlands that surround New Orleans act as a natural buffer. In 2007, the State of Louisiana began a multi-billion dollar coastal restoration plan. The 2010 BP oil spill disaster settlement fund is now helping this.

National Wildlife Federation staff scientist Alisha Renfro said: “Since we have moneys that are going to be coming through from the BP oil spill, we can put that towards coastal restoration. It is a very sad opportunity, but a very unique one that can actually help us out a lot.”

The oil spill compensation will contribute to rebuilding the city where more than a million homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.


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