US President Barack Obama has cited the progress made in rebuilding New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina battered the area 10 years ago, but said more needed to be done to overcome poverty and inequality.
On his ninth trip to the city on Thursday, Obama toured a neighborhood of colorful new houses and a new school and community center, Reuters reported.
“Just because the houses are nice doesn’t mean our job’s done,” the president told reporters after shaking hands with residents and greeting children from the community.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama sharply criticized Republican President George W. Bush for his administration’s slow response to help the victims of the devastating flood.
On Thursday, he recalled the storm and its aftermath.
“What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens,” Obama said.
The storm “laid bare a deeper tragedy” of structural inequalities that left “too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing”, he said.
Obama and other elected officials commemorating the 10th anniversary of the storm said there has been progress.
But the president noted that typical black households still earned less than typical white households in New Orleans and African American men were especially hard hit by unemployment.
With one and a half years left in his presidency and a slew of recent racially charged incidents of gun violence and police use of excessive force against minorities, Obama has spent increasing amounts of time publicly addressing racial inequality.
While in New Orleans, Obama had lunch with a group of young black men as part of his “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which he has said he plans to continue after leaving office in 2017.
Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,500 people and caused as much as US$150 billion in damages, according to Bloomberg News.
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