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Hurricane Katrina in US : Facts and Background

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Hurricane Katrina hit southern US states on August 29, 2005, becoming one of the most destructive hurricanes in the country’s history.

MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) - Hurricane Katrina hit southern US states on August 29, 2005, becoming one of the most destructive hurricanes in the country’s history.

On August 27, 2005, the hurricane swept over the Florida coast not far from Miami and turned toward the Gulf of Mexico.

On Sunday, August 28, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city’s mandatory evacuation. The move caused huge traffic jams on motorways. Long lines formed in front of stores and gas stations as people sought to stock up on food and gasoline. However, not everyone was able to leave. Tens of thousands of people that lived below the poverty line and could not afford transport fares or hotel bills.

The local public transportation system ceased operations and leaving the city became highly problematic unless one was in possession of a vehicle. Nearly 150,000 people, mostly African-Americans and residents of poor neighborhoods, remained in New Orleans.

On August 28, the city established several “refuges of last resort” for residents who could not leave the city, including the Superdome sports arena, which sheltered about 30,000 people.

Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico, blowing with a speed of 280 kilometers per hour (174 miles per hour).

On August 29, it reached the southeastern coast of Louisiana and Mississippi.

The eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Louisiana’s coast south of Buras at 7:10 a.m. EST (12:10 GMT). By that time, it had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, with a wind speed of 200 kilometers per hour.

Those who could not or did not want to leave felt the hurricane approach about an hour before it made landfall. The Superdome plunged into darkness at 6:02 a.m. EST (11:02 GMT), as the power supply was disrupted.

Located below sea level, many towns on the southeastern coast were submerged. In New Orleans, 80 percent of the city was flooded and many buildings collapsed.

With most of the municipal police force sent to man rescue operations, the city was engulfed in a wave of criminal violence, including looting, murders, and rapes from August 31. Numerous stores were ransacked, with looters leaving with food, expensive garments and jewelry. The government declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Katrina left a total of 1,300 people dead, with Louisiana accounting for 1,100. As of March 2006, 1,900 local residents were still missing, with thousands of others having lost their homes.

The majority of victims lived on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. According to the National Weather Service, Katrina caused damages amounting to $125 billion, costing insurance companies $60 billion.

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