Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Video: Welcome aboard the West African Express

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Migrant crisis: Is Calais the dead end on the migrant trail?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Is there a future for French farming?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Merkel's Migrant Conundrum

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Japanese shares slump as global market sell-off continues

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Beyoncé's Black Power Message

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Defense lawyers say Hissene Habre had 'power of life and death' over his people

Read more

THE DEBATE

Can she fix it? Merkel and the refugee crisis (part 2)

Read more

We return to places which have been in the news - often a long time ago, sometimes recently - to see how local people are rebuilding their lives. Sunday at 9.10 pm. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

REVISITED

REVISITED

Latest update : 2014-04-25

Eight years after Katrina, New Orleans still vulnerable

On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina plunged Louisiana and New Orleans into chaos. Nine years on, reconstruction continues as Louisiana strives to heal its wounds. But the threat of a new disaster is never far away.

New Orleans inhabitants have turned into very talented storytellers. They share sad anecdotes, happy memories, and many a story of survival. Every year, come mid-March, there are thousands of tales detailing how revelers survived another Mardi Gras of drunken debauchery.

These are light-hearted, positive tales. The other stories of survival are bittersweet. We have assembled a few in our report. It was filmed during the last week of hurricane season. That, too, was another story of survival, because the season passed without major storms and without major incident.

New Orleans looks nervously over its shoulder every year for six months, toward the new levees. While the levees have been rebuilt, and the new pumping stations surround the city, there is one big problem. The floodwalls will be able to handle another hurricane of Katrina’s ferocious strength. But stronger storms exist, and there is no guarantee that the storm of the century will not hit New Orleans. There’s a niggling, scary doubt, expressed to us by Robert Ricks, the meteorologist who put out the original warning from his weather station on the outskirts of New Orleans.

Enough has been done at least to "safeguard against another Katrina, or something less than Katrina. We still feel there is a big vulnerability for a category 4- or category 5- type threat”, Ricks tells us during his night shift at the weather station.

Wasteland

It was from there that he published the original warning, the text that warned of impending doom. We ask him to read the warning out loud. His prediction came true. Robert Ricks solemnly reads these words: "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. Airborne debris will be widespread, and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.”

Over eight years later, the stories of survival don’t quite resonate in the Lower Ninth Ward. It’s largely a wasteland. Very few houses have been rebuilt. Wild grass now grows where families once lived, and subsequently perished in the rising floodwaters.

The few houses that have been built on this forlorn land come on stilts, just in case the waters are to rise again. And they have escape hatches built into their roofs, a timely reminder of how many people died trapped in their own houses.

Wayne Harris shows us where his family house once stood in the Lower Ninth Ward. He saw it all, including his neighbours’ deaths. He heard it all too: the ship that smashed through the floodwall, and the screams of his desperate friends.

Wayne was forced to leave New Orleans. He is now back in the city, and makes his living in the New Creations Brass Band. His was one of many departures. In 2005, one year after Katrina, the population had decreased by half. Now, it is back to 76 percent of what it was in the year 2000.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, still calls Katrina “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in US history.” In 2005, 80 percent of the city of New Orleans was flooded. A long time after the last floodwaters receded, a final, official death toll was published. Hurricane Katrina was responsible for the deaths of 1,836 people, most of them in New Orleans.

New Orleans has survived, though. Some had written off the whole city after Katrina, but it now resonates to the sound of hammers and power drills, as well as to the usual sounds of the city’s jazz scene.

New Orleans is rebuilding. The new University Medical Center should be finished soon, for example. This 1.2-billion dollar investment will replace the no man’s land created by Katrina. Money is being invested, but all the good intentions in the world won’t change the simple fact that large parts of the city lie below sea level, and are vulnerable to the elements.

Protecting New Orleans from the worst of storms is almost impossible. But the city lives on, ready to write another chapter in its bittersweet recent history.

By Stanislas DE SAINT HIPPOLYTE , Philip CROWTHER

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-01-28 Kashmir

‘Pearl of Kashmir’ sees fragile tourist revival

Peace is slowly returning to Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir. For more than twenty years, this city of the Himalayas, nicknamed "the pearl of Kashmir" or "the Asian...

Read more

2016-01-15 Colombia

Thirty years on, search for missing children continues

Colombians call it the “Sleeping Lion.” On the night of November 13, 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in the Andes mountains, which had been rumbling for several days, erupted...

Read more

2015-12-31 Latvia

Video: Ukrainian crisis rekindles Baltic fears

On the 25th anniversary of the Baltic states’ independence, FRANCE 24 returned to Latvia and Lithuania. In these countries, invaded by Soviet troops a quarter of a century ago,...

Read more

2015-12-10 Bosnia and Herzegovina

20 years on, Sarajevo still bears the scars of war

FRANCE 24's reporters, Julien Sauvaget and Clovis Casali, revisit Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 20 years after the Dayton Peace Accord, which marked the end of the...

Read more

2015-12-04 Cuba

Winds of freedom blowing in Havana, but Cubans remain sceptical

Our reporters returned to Havana, one year after the historic resumption of dialogue between Cuba and the United States. While businessmen are seeking to make the most of this...

Read more