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Rebuilding, Politics Dominate New Orleans Two Years after Katrina


Two years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast of the United States, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans. The rebuilding process has been slow and painful for many, and more than 160,000 displaced residents have not returned. VOA's Paul Sisco has more.

The anniversary this Wednesday is attracting a lot of attention to New Orleans, the city most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Presidential hopefuls are visiting some of the hardest hit areas. Mark Halperin of Time magazine explains why. "For African-Americans, not just on the Gulf Coast but around the country, responding to Katrina, showing that you understand the issue, is a big point in the Democratic (Party) nomination fight."

The Bush administration was widely criticized for not responding more quickly to the disaster. But this Wednesday, President Bush will make his 13th visit to New Orleans since the storm.

The federal government has committed billions of dollars for recovery efforts, including $7 billion to repair the city's flood protection system. A bill in Congress, not yet approved, would provide another $1.9 billion to fortify New Orleans area levees.

"We will do what it takes,” said the president shortly after the city was devastated. “We will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

Three Democratic Party presidential candidates -- Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards -- are in New Orleans this week, promising to speed up reconstruction efforts.

"People have made extraordinary progress and are coming back home and making things work,” said Senator Obama to a local group, “but we have a lot of folks who are under-resourced and not getting the help that they need to make sure they are able to come home. So as a consequence, you have a patchwork of success and failure throughout the city."

Katrina killed an estimated 1800 people across the Gulf Coast, and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Aloyd Edinburg's home was destroyed, but he stayed. His attitude is similar to many. "I don't know whatever is in the plans for me is going to happen. So I just go on and start rebuilding and hope that I'll get in ‘cause I plan to get out of this one feet first."

The images of flooded areas, and displaced citizens are powerful reminders of the hardships nature can impose. So why come back?

"Because this is home,” says New Orleans resident Marilyn Joseph. “There is no place like home."

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