Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Jun 17

Six years.

It’s been nearly six years since one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the U.S, Hurricane Katrina, formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, crossing over Florida before making its second landfall on August 29, 2005. The storm’s path left severe destruction in its wake along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas, with more than 1,800 people reported killed in the actual hurricane and subsequent flooding, and thousands of others displaced from their homes. The hardest hit areas were New Orleans, whose levee system failed, resulting in 80 percent of the city and neighboring parishes eventually being flooded, and coastal cities in Mississippi, many of which were almost totally destroyed, 90 percent flooded in just a matter of hours after the hurricane first hit.

You went to bed the night before Katrina on top of the world, and you woke up and the world was on top of you. (1)

Kryzra Holmes-Stallworth, Hurricane Katrina survivor, Biloxi, MS

WATCH VIDEO: VOICES FROM THE GULF COAST

CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch grew up in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and returned there shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the coastal town.

I was stunned after we turned off the interstate. We were seven miles inland, yet every building was flattened. Crushed cars littered the roadway. I imagined the drivers inside, fleeing as the winds buffeted them, before the storm surge swept over them… I found an old classmate, Kathy Cox, in our destroyed church. She’d lost everything, but begged me to let the country know that no help was getting through. “There are people getting sick, because they don’t have food. I mean, they’re getting sick … vomiting and diarrhea,” she explained, horrified at her own words. (2)

Just one month after Katrina, on September 23, 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall between Sabine Pass, Texas and Johnsons Bayou, Louisiana, destroying some and causing extensive damage in other coastal towns. Total damage has been estimated at $10 billion, making it the ninth-costliest storm in U.S. history. Add that to the estimated $81 billion in property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and you are looking at nearly $100 billion of damage, approximately 2,000 lives lost and thousands and thousands of displaced residents. According to the 2010 census, New Orleans alone has more than 100,000 fewer residents than it did prior to Hurricane Katrina.

In the wake of Katrina and Rita, Direct Relief International was one of the first nonprofit relief organizations to respond. Within one week, through its Direct Relief USA program, the organization furnished over $10 million in medical material aid and cash grants to support the community clinics and health centers throughout the region that serve as the healthcare safety net for low-income and uninsured persons. Within one month, Direct Relief had made 95 emergency shipments to 65 clinics and other health facilities. The emergency revealed a vast unmet need for medical aid in the Gulf States and, as of August 2010, Direct Relief had provided over $85 million in ongoing support to the region. Since 2007, Direct Relief has equipped health facilities across the Gulf States with Hurricane Preparedness Packs full of medical materials to treat 100 patients for a three-day period – about the time it takes to clear roads and open transportation channels. The program has grown each year, scaling from five sites in 2007 to 30 in 2010.

Nearly six years later, the Gulf Coast region is still struggling to recover from these twin natural disasters, and Direct Relief continues to work with local organizations to provide much-needed aid. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in this region. If you are interested in supporting the work of Direct Relief, please go to our project page and make a small donation. Every little bit helps!

NOTES:
(1) http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2005/katrina/ (video)
(2) “Covering a Disaster in Your Hometown”, http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/29/btsc.koch/

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