In The News › Anger simmers in N.O.‘s dead 9th ward

Oct 27, 2005

Source: Reuters

Anger simmers in N.O.‘s dead 9th ward

Anger simmers in New Orleans’ dead Ninth Ward
Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:13 PM BST
By Kevin Krolicki

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Mabel Howard’s beige house is built in the shadow of a Mississippi River-bound canal, so low that the
passing barges seem almost to float over neighbouring rooftops.

But insurers told her when she bought the tidy house up against the lawn-covered levee that this part of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth
Ward would never flood, and she believed them.

Now, two months after Hurricane Katrina unleashed a deadly tidal surge that swamped the street, the 77-year-old grandmother has
lost patience with official assurances.

“They’re focussed over there,” she said, gesturing towards the relative bustle of the city’s French Quarter and Uptown district, where
restaurants have opened and residents have returned. “They should be here, where we need help.”

Dispersed residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, an overwhelmingly black neighbourhood that experienced some of the worst damage
from Katrina, say they are frustrated by what they see as a double-standard in the city’s recovery efforts.

Many residents have not been allowed back to retrieve what they can from their homes. Some question the commitment of city
officials to rebuild in this flood plain and wonder aloud whether the new New Orleans will exclude them.

“Lower Nine is not a priority,” said Greta Gladney, a fourth -generation resident whose mother was whisked by boat from the rooftop
of a neighbour’s home in the area still off -limits to residents. “There’s almost a concerted effort to keep African Americans from
returning to the city.”

To be sure, other New Orleans neighbourhoods also face deep hardship, but elsewhere, including middle-class Lakeview, some
residents have been able to gut their flood-damaged homes and ready them for electricians and carpenters.

By contrast, some former Ninth Ward residents, many now living out of state, will get their first chance to see what is left of their
homes on Thursday during a bus tour of the area’s worst -hit zone.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who had initially indicated some doubt about plans for the neighbourhood, this week said the whole
city would be rebuilt and called for unity.

“What I’m starting to realise is … that Washington is very sceptical about helping us,” Nagin told a town hall meeting on Wednesday.
“And it’s very clear to me that if we don’t start to help ourselves … we’re going to get left behind.”

ACCESS RESTRICTED

But some activists have criticised Nagin for setting up a blue -ribbon panel on the future of New Orleans that seemed to shut out a
range of concerned citizens.

“The process seems very top down,” said Janet Howard, who heads BGR, a local city hall watchdog group. “I think there is a
serious issue relating to citizen participation in the planning process.”

Police and National Guard troops still block access to the northern edge of the Lower Ninth Ward, where a massive, red barge went
through a failed levee and almost into Sandy Pritchard’s house. “We can’t get in, and the barge can’t get out,” she said.
The still-restricted area is littered with the twisted wreckage of homes and patrolled by the vans of a private contractor hired to
retrieve the dead.

The fact that bodies were still being found until recently, suggests that rescue teams never made it there, Howard said. “That’s why
they don’t want you to go back there,” she said.

Burnell Lucien, a cement foreman who owned two nearby homes, said the devastated neighbourhood was being overlooked
“because we’re black.”

“We don’t know what to do,” he said. “They’re not even saying when or whether we’re going to get power.”

Henry Irvine, 69, said he would leave the neighbourhood, “when they carry me out in a casket.” But he was deeply sceptical of
government intentions after the botched evacuation of the city’s mostly black residents.

“The idea was to disperse us all over the country so we could never get back,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Russell McCulley)
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Oct 27, 2005

Source: Reuters

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