Jamaican News

Obama marks New Orleans’ rebirth 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, warns about climate change

By Darlene Superville


(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

WASHINGTON _ President Barack Obama is marking 10 years since Hurricane Katrina by celebrating the revival of New Orleans, which suffered the worst of the ferocious storm’s devastation, while again warning all levels of government to start helping communities prepare for the stronger hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires that climate change will bring.

Obama planned visits Thursday with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and those who have spent the past decade rebuilding their lives and communities. He was delivering remarks at a newly opened community centre in a largely African-American neighbourhood, the Lower 9th Ward, that was among those hardest hit by the storm. It is still struggling to recover.

“Not only was it a terrible natural disaster, but it was a fundamental failure on the part of government to respond rapidly,” Obama told WWL-TV of New Orleans in an interview Wednesday. He praised recovery efforts by the federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector.

“We’ve seen this city bounce back. I want to highlight the outstanding work that has been done, but I want to remind people that there’s still work to do,” he said.

Obama was in the first year of a U.S. Senate term when Katrina’s powerful winds and driving rain bore down on Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm caused major damage to the Gulf Coast from Texas to central Florida while powering a storm surge that breached the system of levees that were built to protect New Orleans from flooding.

Nearly 2,000 people died as a result, mostly in New Orleans, 80 per cent of which was flooded for weeks. One million people were displaced.

Video of residents seeking refuge on rooftops or inside the Superdome or the convention centre dominated news coverage in the aftermath as Katrina came to symbolize government failure at every level. The storm went down in history as the costliest natural disaster, and one of the deadliest, to strike the U.S., with $150 billion in damages to homes and other property.

“Katrina was one of the seminal catastrophes of our lifetime,” Obama said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama will also stress the need for the federal government and communities nationwide to start investing in “resilience” so that they are ready for the more intense storms and wildfires a warming planet will bring.

“There’s no denying what scientists tell us, which is that there’s reason to be concerned about these storms getting worse and more violent,” Earnest said.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, protested Obama’s use of the appearance to espouse “the divisive political agenda of liberal environmental activism.”

Jindal, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination and has expressed some doubt about how much human behaviour is influencing climate change, said the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is a time to mourn the loss of loved ones _ not a time for politics.

“A lecture on climate change would do nothing to improve upon what we are already doing,” Jindal told Obama in a letter dated Wednesday. “Quite the opposite; it would distract from the losses we have suffered, diminish the restoration effort we have made and overshadow the miracle that has been the Louisiana comeback.”


Associated Press writer Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.


Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *