It is now eight years since the United States suffered one of its worst natural disasters, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, killing 1,833 people and leaving millions homeless. At $81 billion, it was also one of the costliest.
With wind speeds reaching 175 mph in the warm Gulf waters, the Category 3 hurricane destroyed entire neighbourhoods in Louisiana and Mississippi. The area of New Orleans was particularly ill-prepared for the disaster with many homes destroyed as ageing levees succumbed to the brute force of the hurricane.
But can the piteously slow response to the disaster also be blamed for the extent of the damage?
President George W Bush bore the brunt of the criticism after taking four days to sign the $10.5 billion relief package, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was blamed for the inadequate response, especially in the city of New Orleans. Bush famously boasted that Michael D Brown, the then-Deputy Director of FEMA, was doing a “heck of a job,” before he resigned 10 days later because of his incompetence.
Louisiana was forced to suffer further though when Hurricane Isaac hit the state on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, causing even further damage to the area. Today, there are still signs of destruction as planned reconstruction has been delayed, exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008 and the BP oil spill of 2010.
Despite these trials and tribulations, the housing recovery has been successful; public units housing for low-income people in the area has increased by 1,000 since before Katrina. Furthermore, reconstruction of the levees in New Orleans was completed last year, with barriers described by engineers as the “Rolls Royce” of levees.
Furthermore, the then-Govenor Haley Barbour’s plan to make the Mississippi Coast “bigger and better" than it was before the hurricane has been praised for its successful outcome, with many Mississippians pleased with the long-term response to the storm.