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Barack Obama addressed New Orleans at an event in the city's Xavier University. Carolyn Kaster/AP
Hurricane Katrina

Obama laments “man-made catastrophe” of Hurricane Katrina

President tells New Orleans that the legacy of Katrina must be one “of action” but stops short of admonishing BP.

BARACK OBAMA has assured the people of New Orleans that the struggle to rebuild their city will not be shelved as the country seeks to repair the damage elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP oil spill.

Obama was speaking at an event in the Louisiana city marking the fifth anniversary since Hurricane Katrina tore through the city’s protective storm levees, leaving 1,800 dead and and left thousands of homes completely uninhabitable. The city, in most eyes, has still to recover.

The president described the hurricane’s effects as “a natural disaster but a man-made catastrophe – a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women and children abandoned and alone.”

Obama told locals that the legacy of the hurricane could not be “one of neglect, but of action” but acknowledged that there were “some wounds that do not heal; there are some losses that cannot be repaid.

“For many who lived through those harrowing days five years ago, there is a searing memory that time will not erase.”

The White House marked the anniversary by pledging a $1.8bn (€1.42bn) fund to help rebuild schools in the city, while also insisting that 98% of the 40,000 families in temporary housing when Obama took office have now been assigned permanent homes.

Many were disappointed, however, that Obama did not take the opportunity of yet another visit to the Gulf region to announce new sanctions on BP in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or to end his moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Unemployment has risen again in the city in the aftermath of the oil spill, with many maritime jobs falling victim to the oil slick. Locals says the ban on drilling is hindering the economic recovery in the city.