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U.S. Marks Fifth Anniversary Of Hurricane Katrina


More than 1 million people lost their homes in the disaster
The United States is marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans on the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people and leaving more than 1 million people homeless.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a speech on August 29 at New Orleans' Xavier University, to reiterate his commitment to completing the rebuilding of the city.

More than 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded and some 70 percent of its buildings damaged as the devastating storm hit the city on August 29, 2005.

Five years on recovery has been slow. In addition, the region is coping with the aftermath of its second disaster -- the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Clean-up operations are still going on along Louisiana's coastlines since millions of gallons of crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from oil giant BP's damaged well in April.

Currently, New Orleans' population is estimated at nearly 350,000, almost 80 percent of pre-Katrina levels. In some areas of the city many houses still remain vacant.

Hundreds of local residents held a symbolic funeral ceremony for Hurricane Katrina on August 28. At a church in St. Bernard Parish, close to New Orleans, residents dropped notes and cards into a gray casket. Organizers of the event say it would bring a sense of closure to people who are still recovering from the tragedy.

Symbolic Burial

Gregory M. Aymond, the archbishop of New Orleans, underlined the unique nature of the ceremony.

"I'm sure, like you, I have been present for many funerals, but I must say that today was the first time, when the casket was closed, that there was applause," Aymond said.

"That doesn't usually happen, even if the person may not be the most popular. There usually isn't applause when they close the casket, but there was one, and I would say, a very appropriate applause."

Warren Minter, a local resident, said the symbolic burial helped to heal the community.

"It's putting something behind us. You'll never bury Katrina, but you'll always have the memories. But this helps a little bit with closure. There's a lot went on. Everybody in this parish has a story. It's never all going to be told," Minter said.

Katrina, one of the deadliest and devastating hurricanes in U.S. history, caused property damage of over $80 billion.

It flooded New Orleans, situated largely below sea level, after the city's outdated hurricane protection system failed.

compiled from news agencies