Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina
 
Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane that hit the United States in August 2005. It was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, causing the deaths of at least 1,836 people and leaving behind an estimated $81 billion in property damage.
 
Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. When it crossed southern Florida, it was a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding before moving on and strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico.
 

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When Katrina made its second landfall in southeast Louisiana on the morning on Monday, August 29, it was a Category 3 storm that had weakened substantially. However, it caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge.
 
New Orleans suffered the most severe loss of life from the storm. The city’s levee system failed causing severe flooding that left more than 80 percent of the city and surrounding areas underwater for weeks afterward. Coastal areas including Mississippi beachfront towns also suffered massive property damage as floodwaters reached six to 12 miles inland from the beach.
 
Hurricane Katrina caused significant beach erosion that transformed more than 200 square miles of land to water, thus adversely affecting the habitats of various species such as brown pelicans, turtles, Mississippi sandhill cranes and Alabama Beach mice. Massive oil spills were caused throughout Southeastern Louisiana that resulted in leakage of 7 million U.S. gallons of oil. Nearly 1.3 million acres of forest lands were destroyed causing a loss of $5 billion to the forestry industry. As nine oil refineries shut down and roads and highways were destroyed, local economy took a turn for the worse.
 
More than seventy countries pledged help in terms of monetary donations or other assistance. Donations from corporations amounted to $409 billion in September 2005. Various non-governmental organizations including the American Red Cross, Oxfam, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army also supported the relief efforts. The Coast Guard and Armed Service played an active role in evacuating and assisting victims of the disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also provided housing assistance to thousands of residents who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. National Guard personnel came from all over the country to assist in the relief efforts.
 
The government received much flak for its response to Hurricane Katrina. Lack of leadership in relief efforts and mismanagement of the crisis situation were two of the main points of criticism leveled at the government. Images of stranded residents, struggling for food, water and shelter emerged in the media, further exacerbating the situation. Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans and Lousiana Governor Kathleen Blanco also came under fire for failing to implementing the New Orleans evacuation plan. Questions were also raised about emergency management, poverty and environmental policy.
 
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Text by Lakshmi Jagad
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

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