Much more work to do in New Orleans: Obama

Mr Obama making a speech at a New Orleans community centre on Thursday. He said more needed to be done to overcome poverty.
Mr Obama making a speech at a New Orleans community centre on Thursday. He said more needed to be done to overcome poverty.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW ORLEANS • US President Barack Obama has visited New Orleans where he heralded the progress the city has made in rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina battered the area 10 years ago. But he said more needed to be done to overcome poverty

and inequality.

On his ninth trip to New Orleans, which made worldwide headlines after a devastating flood caused by the hurricane was exacerbated by a slow government response, Mr Obama toured a neighbourhood of colourful new houses, a new school and community centre.

"Just because the houses are nice doesn't mean our job's done," Mr Obama told reporters on Thursday after shaking hands with residents and greeting children from the community.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mr Obama had sharply criticised then President George W. Bush for his administration's handling of the aftermath of the storm. He recalled the events that happened then, saying: "What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens."

The storm "laid bare a deeper tragedy" of structural inequalities that left "too many people, especially poor people, especially people of colour, without good jobs or affordable healthcare or decent housing", he added.

NOT DONE YET

Just because the houses are nice doesn't mean our job's done.

MR BARACK OBAMA, US President

Mr 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.

Ms Donna Brazile, a New Orleans native, said the city has begun to address inequality and make greater strides towards recovery.

"We still have a long way to go," she said, estimating that it would take another five or 10 years of hard work. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Much more work to do in New Orleans: Obama'. Print Edition | Subscribe