September 1, 2005-2006

1 September 2005-2006: Like a frozen snapshot of the disaster, part of the destroyed section of US Highway 90 near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, USA, still lies in ruins today as it did a year ago, in the wake of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. The bridge, connecting Ocean Springs to Biloxi, was taken out by massive storm surges as the deadly hurricane laid waste to an area along the US Gulf Coast about the size of England, in the process wreaking havoc on the legendary city of New Orleans. Although reconstruction work began a few months ago, the Mississippi bridge is only expected to be open to traffic again between September and October of 2007. Katrina was the most extensive and costly natural disaster in US history. Some 1,600 deaths are now attributed to the storm, while hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents were rendered homeless. An insurance bill of some $60bn is estimated to

cover the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In New Orleans itself, half of the 500,000 pre-Katrina inhabitants have yet to return and many of them surely never will. A year ago, the city's Superdome, was packed with refugees - most of them black and poor - in scenes of Third World squalor. Greece offered to send two cruise ships for free to house evacuees, but the US government turned to Carnival Corp instead, paying the Miami-based company $236 million. Greece has a special bond to the South because the first Greek immigrants to the United States are believed to have landed near St Augustine, Florida, in the 1700s and the first Greek Orthodox community in the Americas was formally organised in New Orleans in the 1860s. The country's oldest and largest Greek-American organisation, The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), was founded in Atlanta in 1922 to defend its members from the Ku Klux Klan. More than 250,000 Americans of Greek descent live in the South, according to US Census figures.

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 15 September 2006 )

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