New Orleans still bears flood's scars
New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward was one of the worst hit areas during Hurricane Katrina. Some people have come back, but what was once a thriving community now seems like is a ghost town.
On the East side of New Orleans lies the Lower Ninth Ward - one of the worst hit areas during Hurricane Katrina four years ago. The levees broke and water spilled in remorselessly. Water levels rose to roof height and those residents who had not evacuated - and there were many - had no option other than to cling to their rooftops and hope.
A large number did not make it. Three people drowned in their attic because they could not bash their way through the roof in time. Another couple was found downstairs in their home, still in their wheelchairs, drowned. And so it goes on.
Even today the holes in the roofs are still there. You can see the red paint daubed by the rescue services to denote the numbers of dead inside. Many of the houses are wrecks and there are gaps everywhere where properties once stood.
Some people have come back, but what was once a thriving community is a ghost town. Denise Smith has returned after three years away and we spoke with her on a Sunday afternoon.
“Before Katrina you would have seen the streets full of people, BBQs, children running about, guys fixing their cars,” she told us. “Now the road’s empty.”
Denise has come back because Lower 9th will always be home, whatever happens. But she does wonder what happened to acquaintances and neighbours who one day just disappeared.
There’s a great deal of anger in New Orleans that not enough has been done by the authorities to get things going again. But at one end you do see construction work. State of the art houses going up, funded by charitable causes and even by the actor Brad Pitt.
It is of course hoped that one day Lower 9th will return as a community, perhaps better than before. It seems it’s a matter of timing and this applies across the city.
Another hurricane is inevitable at some point in the future. If one as big as Katrina is able to wreak as much damage - and if it happens soon - then this vibrant, resilient city, may have taken as much as it can handle.