Hurricane Katrina is the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. It happened at the end of August 2005. The most severe damage was in New Orleans, Louisiana, where about 80% of the city area was underwater. As a result of the natural disaster, 1,836 residents died, the economic damage was $125 billion (estimate, 2007).
Where did Hurricane Katrina start? The hurricane began forming on August 23 near the Bahamas. It was a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale before it reached the U.S. coast. Katrina weakened to a Category 4 hurricane about 12 hours before reaching the coast. Wind speed during the hurricane reached 280 km/h (according to other reports, 62 m/s (≈223 km/h)). On August 27, 2005, it passed over the Florida coast near Miami and turned toward the Gulf of Mexico.
As the hurricane moved toward the Gulf of Mexico, the evacuation of personnel from oil platforms began. Planes were evacuated from military bases in Mississippi and Florida. Two ships left port U.S. President George W. Bush declared Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida a disaster zone.
On Sunday, August 28, 2005, the mayor of New Orleans declared a mandatory evacuation. The mass evacuation of people caused major traffic jams on the freeways. More than a million people, about 80 percent of the local population, left the city and its environs. Long lines lined up in front of stores and gas stations. Refugees tried to stock up on water, food, and gasoline.
However, not all residents were able to evacuate. Tens of thousands of citizens lived below the poverty line and had no money for travel or hotels. Public transportation stopped working, and it was extremely difficult to leave the city without one’s own car. About 150,000 people remained in New Orleans, mostly residents of poor neighborhoods and blacks. On August 28, city officials offered the Superdome, an indoor stadium, as a shelter for those left in the city. About 30,000 people sought shelter at the Superdome.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina reached the southeast coast of the United States near Louisiana and Mississippi. It struck Louisiana, south-central Mississippi, south Alabama, West Georgia, and west and south Florida.
70% of New Orleans lies below sea level; the city is surrounded on three sides by water: the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, and Lake Pontchartrain.
On August 29, the levees of New Orleans were breached in several places. The city and the coast began to flood. The roof of the Superdome was damaged by the strongest winds. The rescue of people from the flooded areas was carried out with the help of boats and helicopters.
800000 people lost electricity and telephone service.
The official confirmed death toll was 1,407, according to later reports 1,600, including more than 720 in New Orleans; also, as of December 2005, 47 people were missing. At the time of the rescue operations (September 2005), there were suggestions of many thousands or tens of thousands of victims, but they were not confirmed.
According to a poll by the American magazine Newsweek, only 38 percent of those questioned approve of Bush and his administration and how they dealt with the aftermath of the disaster. In a September 2005, poll by the Pew Research Center, Bush’s approval rating was 40 percent.
On September 1, the media reported on the shelling of the city hospital. According to the doctor, the hospital was shelled several times. The shooting took place at the moment when the patients were being loaded for transportation, earlier the boats with the patients being transported were fired and overturned.
On September 1, a spokesperson for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said a temporary halt to rescue efforts due to criminal assaults. According to the Coast Guard spokeswoman, rescuers avoided going to areas where gunfire was heard.
Looters have been shot and left lying in the street with a “looter” sign.
The economic damage was $125 billion (estimate, 2007)
The U.S. Congress has appropriated $110 billion to rebuild the affected areas.
As of August 2006, more than 100,000 families were living in trailers due to loss of housing.
As of September 8, 43,000 U.S. National Guardsmen, 4,000 Coast Guardsmen, and about 15,000 Regular Army personnel were involved in the rescue operation in the disaster area.
The actions of government officials have been criticized. Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana gave the Bush administration the lowest grade for the government’s efforts to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. American filmmaker and public figure Michael Moore, in an open letter in September 2005, accused the administration of cutting spending on the engineering forces, which, in his opinion, led to dire consequences.
The day the hurricane hit the city, Mr. Bush, John McCain (Senator), and his rich friends indulged in the cake. And then throughout the day, Mr. Bush played the guitar given to him by some “country” performer. All this while New Orleans was drowning in water. In 2006, about 60 percent of U.S. residents, according to public opinion polls, were pessimistic about the authorities’ ability to cope with natural disasters.
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