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US residents mark 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastation

Published 29/08/2015

A standing-room only audience of first responders to the Hurricane Katrina emergency listen to salutes from past and present state government officials (AP)
A standing-room only audience of first responders to the Hurricane Katrina emergency listen to salutes from past and present state government officials (AP)

Residents of Mississippi and Louisiana have gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that Hurricane Katrina slammed into their states - causing deadly and costly havoc.

Addressing dignitaries at New Orleans' memorial to the unclaimed and unidentified dead, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke of the dark days after the monstrous storm and how the city's residents leaned on each other for support.

"We saved each other," the mayor said. "New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken."

In Mississippi, meanwhile, churches along coastal Hancock County tolled their bells in unison to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that Katrina made landfall in the state.

Eloise Allen, 80, wept softly into a tissue and leaned against her rusting Oldsmobile as bells chimed at Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church just across a two-lane street from a sun-drenched beach at Bay St Louis, Mississippi.

She said her home, farther inland, was damaged but liveable. Her daughter lost her home in nearby Waveland. Many of her friends and neighbours suffered similarly.

"I feel guilty," she said. "I didn't go through what all the other people did."

Katrina's force caused a massive storm surge that scoured the Mississippi coast, pushed boats far inland and wiped houses off the map, leaving only concrete front steps to nowhere.

The hurricane's force and flooding ultimately caused more than 1,800 deaths and billions of dollars in damage across the region. Wide scale failures of the levee system protecting New Orleans left 80% of the city under water.

Glitzy casinos and condominium towers have been rebuilt. But overgrown lots and empty slabs speak to the slow recovery in some communities.

In the evening, former president Bill Clinton will headline a free concert-prayer service-celebration at the city's Smoothie King Center. In addition to the former president the event will feature the city's Rebirth Brass Band, award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien and Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Wild Magnolias.

The city has framed the 10th anniversary as a showcase designed to demonstrate to the world how far the city has come. In a series of events in the week leading up to the actual anniversary, the city has held lectures, given tours of the levee improvements and released a resiliency plan.

Many parts of this iconic city have rebounded phenomenally while many residents - particularly in the city's black community - still struggle.

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