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Hurricane Katrina Still Wrecking Lives - More So With Blacks

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are still struggling with financial hardship and health problems, and blacks seem to be having the lions share of this.

Accordingly, more than half of the 1,504 people surveyed by the foundation after the disaster said they had money problems because of the hurricane and resulting floods, and 17 percent said they had lost a job or had to take a lower-paying job. The study covered a period from September to November 2006.

In all, 81 percent of those in the survey said their economic or physical well being had deteriorated. More than a third said they lost access to health care, while 17 percent said their health had declined and 16 percent said they had mental health troubles. Almost a quarter said their marriages had broken up, their relationships had failed, or they were drinking more since the August 2005 hurricane.

The city's long-standing racial friction became a cause for public debate when Katrina's floods displaced countless black families. Many considered the federal and state governments' neglect of area levees and lack of evacuation plans a racial issue because blacks tended to live in areas at risk of flooding.

As per the Kaiser survey, the disparities remain. "Anywhere we looked in the survey, in the stories people told us and in the data, we found the racial divide was confirmed, underscored," foundation president Drew Altman said in an interview.

Across the city, 56 percent of blacks said their housing costs went up substantially since the storm, while 42 percent of whites complained of similar problems. While 46 percent of blacks surveyed said they were unemployed or employed in jobs that didn't pay enough, 17 percent of whites said the same thing.

In the hard-hit Orleans Parish, where more than half of residents are black, twice as many African-Americans as whites reported their liv es were still disrupted by the storms. More than half of the parish's blacks said they have been treated worse and given fewer opportunities than whites in the rebuilding process.

Only 11 percent of all those surveyed were considering leaving New Orleans. Eighty-six percent worried that the rebuilt levees will not be strong enough to withstand another hurricane and fewer than 10 percent thought government officials were prepared to deal with the next big hurricane.

In 2006, the nonprofit research organization Rand Corporation estimated fewer than 200,000 people were living in New Orleans, compared to 485,000 in 2000. Residents were evacuated to cities around the United States and many of them have never returned.


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