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Obama to Visit New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina Anniversary


U.S. President Barack Obama is to visit the Gulf Coast city of New Orleans, Louisiana, Sunday to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region.

The massive storm and resulting flood killed more than 1,800 people and forced more than 1 million people from their homes.

New Orleans has been holding events all week to commemorate the anniversary. Roughly 80 percent of the city was submerged by flooding after its levees were breached.

While much of the region has been rebuilt, some areas of New Orleans remain scarred by the storm. Many people who fled their homes have not returned to the city. A total of about 50,000 residential properties are still either uninhabitable or empty lots.

As the crisis unfolded, some residents in New Orleans were stranded on the rooftops of their flooded homes for days waiting for help. Thousands of residents also sought refuge at the Superdome arena and New Orleans Convention Center, but ended up being stranded for days with little food or water.

The federal response to the disaster was widely criticized as slow and mismanaged, with critics blaming then-President George W. Bush and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the time, Michael Brown.

In television interviews this week, Brown said the administration made a "fatal mistake" by not disclosing how bad the situation really was.

Vacant properties are still prevalent in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, a historically African-American neighborhood that became a symbol of the devastation.

Katrina also destroyed homes across the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama when it slammed ashore on August 29, 2005.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the United States suffered more economic losses from Hurricane Katrina than any other storm in history. The agency says damages and costs from the storm were estimated at around $125 billion.

In recent months, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has brought more devastation to the Gulf Coast. The disaster has again crippled the seafood and tourism industries in the region.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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