President Barack Obama will visit New Orleans, Louisiana, next week to check on the 10-year effort to rebuild the southern U.S. city from the devastation wreaked there by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Obama plans to meet August 27 with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and residents in several neighborhoods who have rebuilt their lives over the last decade. Numerous other U.S. officials are also visiting the city in the coming days for commemorative events and meetings on what yet needs to be done to restore the city and its environs.
The storm stands as the costliest natural disaster ever in the United States, having caused $135 billion in damage. It killed 1,800 people and displaced a million others as torrential rains and winds up to 280 kilometers an hour raked the city near the Gulf of Mexico.
Billions of dollars in federal assistance has been spent for reconstruction programs in Louisiana and neighboring states, but New Orleans was the hardest hit.
Mayor Landrieu said more than $14 billion has been spent to reinforce levees that spectacularly failed to protect the city when the storm slammed ashore on August 29, 2005, leaving 80 percent of New Orleans underwater. He said he was confident his city could withstand any new storm equal to Katrina.
"The city is much safer than it was in terms of hurricane protection," he said in Washington this week.