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Apology needed for Katrina

Some Katrina victims have got compensation, but what is really needed is an apology from ex-President George Bush, writes Richard Sudan

In a landmark verdict, Hurricane Katrina victims have been awarded a payout of £440,00 in damages after the Army Corps of Engineers were found to have dredged a canal which breaching a barrier allowing flooding to cause loss of life and damages.

The juryless court in New Orleans ordered that one buisiness and four residents are to be awarded damages highlighting that the shortcomings of federal government amounted to “monumental negligence.”

The American government’s failure to ensure correct measures were taken to protect the city New Orleans from flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has led to a verdict which will certainly cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The ones who survived

The outcome of the trial has the potential to pave the way for more cases to follow which many believe could result in payouts totalling in the billions.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been found guilty of negligence, in failing to ensure the levees and waterways surrounding New Orleans in Louisiana were adequate enough to prevent flooding.

They also did not maintain a shipping channel leading to the Gulf of Mexico. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, New Orleans should have been protected, but a federal court has ruled that negligence led directly to loss of life.

The total number of lives lost in the disaster was nearly two thousand.

Judge Duval has awarded payouts to those who were living in a poor area of New Orleans, Bernard parish, stating: “The Corps’ lassitude and failure to fulfil its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions.”

While this payout is a small victory the number of fatalities caused, and the property damaged by the disaster could have been prevented if the levees had been maintained sufficiently.

The ruling has confirmed that not only could the loss of life been significantly reduced, the Army Corps of Engineers were aware of the risks.

When we couple this with the fact that the response time (four days before then President Bush signed a relief package) for the disaster was slow, Louisiana has a population that is 32% black, and the City worst hit New Orleans has a black population of roughly 67.3%.

The math is simple. It may not be indicative of intention, but it is the failure of the system to protect poor people predominantly black. Would the response time have been different if the above statistics were reversed? Would the shortcomings have occurred if the stats were different and a richer area at risk?

Five families of the worst hit area will now receive compensation for the damage caused.

A real victory would be Bush apologising and asking for forgiveness for the response time, for declaring martial law in some areas on displaced desperate people, for handling the situation as badly as possible – all of which resulted in unnecessary loss of life, mostly to black people.

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