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New Orleans Marks 2nd Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina


The city of New Orleans in the southeastern U.S. state of Louisiana on Wednesday marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. The extremely powerful hurricane hit the U.S. Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005, breaking through levees in New Orleans, eventually flooding 80 percent of the city. Much of the city is still rebuilding, amid concerns it is still not safe from another major hurricane. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more.

Many New Orleans residents rang bells at 9:38 Wednesday morning, marking the exact moment two years ago when the city's levees began to break under the storm surge. The disaster killed roughly 1,600 people, and left tens of thousands homeless.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for a new memorial to Katrina victims, Mayor Ray Nagin called for survivors to put aside their anxiety and frustration. "I pray that God be with us as we continue to rebuild. That he gives us the strength to continue to fight and he gives us the wisdom not to fight each other, while we're fighting to rebuild this entire city."

President George Bush spent much of the day in New Orleans, where he marked the anniversary by visiting the first school to reopen in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Mr. Bush said the school's new beginning is symbolic of the whole city. "Hurricane Katrina broke through the levees, it broke a lot of hearts, it destroyed buildings, but it didn't affect the spirit of a lot of citizens in this community"

Mr. Bush also spoke of billions of dollars in federal aid to repair homes, infrastructure and the levees that burst during the storm. The Bush administration was criticized for its initial slow response to the disaster.

But Mr. Bush pledged the government has not forgotten those in need. "A lot of people down here probably wondered whether or not those of us in the federal government not from Louisiana would pay attention to Louisiana or Mississippi. I hope, hope, people understand we do -- we're still paying attention."

However, the repairs to the city's besieged levees are still several years away. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the work will not be completed until 2011.

And some engineering experts say the $1.7 billion repair job will not stop a storm half as powerful as Katrina.

But those concerns are not discouraging Aloyd Edinburgh, who lost his house two years ago.

Edinburgh already has spent all the insurance money he received on his claim, and about $70,000 of his own savings. He says -- at 76 -- he is too old to start over anywhere else. "How safe is it? Do you believe the canals are level enough? I mean, raised high enough? I don't know, (laughs) should I worry about it? No. What's in the plans for me is going to happen."