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US to Mark Hurricane Katrina, Five Years On


Notes lay inside a casket during a symbolic funeral of Hurricane Katrina, on the eve of the storm's five year anniversary in Chalmette, Louisiana August 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Lee Celano)

The US is set to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf coast, killing more than 1,800 people.

US President Barack Obama will visit New Orleans, where
sombre ceremonies are planned, including a tolling of the bells at St
Louis Cathedral.

Louisiana residents held a symbolic burial for victims on Saturday.

The storm displaced hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom have still not returned.

Mr Obama will make a speech at Xavier University - which,
like much of New Orleans, was flooded when the levees protecting the
city were breached by flood tides.

The president is expected to reassure survivors who have
returned to the city that he is committed to completing the rebuilding
of New Orleans.

'We're survivors'

A march and "healing ceremony" have also been scheduled in a district of the city where many houses still stand vacant.

The houses still have a circle painted on them in 2005 to
indicate that they had been searched, and whether bodies were in them,
the Associated Press reports.

"I'm tired of the anniversaries," 77-year-old
Barbara Washington told AP, explaining that she had been living in the
suburbs since Katrina struck.

"I miss my home every day. I feel lost. But I also know we are getting back. We're survivors."

During a symbolic burying of victims of Katrina in Chalmette,
Louisiana, residents were invited to write "farewell Katrina" messages
and place them in a coffin, which was then buried.

"You made us stronger and made us realise what was important in life. One day we will feel better," read one note.

Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, led the ceremony,
telling the congregation: "Where was God five years ago on this day?
Here, weeping with us, and trying to console us in the midst of a
natural tragedy."

Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore near New Orleans with winds
of up to 125mph (201 km/h) - making it a Category 3 storm on the
Saffir-Simpson scale. It had only just weakened from Category 5 and
brought ashore a massive storm surge.

Entire communities on the Gulf Coast were obliterated, and than a million people were displaced and scattered around the US.

Many were housed in Federal Emergency Management Agency caravans.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled New Orleans and with
much of its housing stock destroyed, the city's population a year after
the storm was only half its pre-Katrina level of 1.3 million.

According to US census figures, by July 2009, its population had recovered to 90% of its pre-storm level.

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