The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (USA) in 2005, claimed an estimated 1,800 lives and caused extensive property damage totalling around US$108 billion. The natural disaster forced the city to deal directly with the relationships between environmental and cultural resilience, and focused discussions in the United States on sustainability and resilience.
The impact and aftermath of the hurricane and the subsequent flooding accentuated both positive and negative forces within the urban environment. In the wake of the disaster, numerous initiatives surfaced for neighbourhood recovery, vernacular housing, adaptive reuse strategies and climate change adaptation, many of which have been independent and experimental. Non-profit organizations played an important role in highlighting the importance of integrated and interdependent strategies in disaster response.
A decade after the disaster, unequal burdens on different segments of society has meant that the poor and marginalized are finding it most difficult to recover. Persistent security concerns have led to the city responding through increased security fees and considering zoning restrictions for the traditional second-line parades, putting at risk some of these legendary musical events and informal cultural events. Abandoned buildings are also seen as security risks, which has sometimes led to rapid demolition rather than sustained regeneration processes.
The impact of Hurricane Katrina and the related disaster responses provide several important lessons. Disaster risk reduction must be people-centred and engage all sectors of society in disaster planning, including the elderly, poor and other potentially vulnerable groups, and make adequate provision for their safety when a disaster strikes. In addition, achieving viable long-term solutions must integrate natural, social, economic and cultural policies and initiatives.
Source: School of Restoration Arts at Willowbank, report for Study Area 7