Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan Floods

This weekend, as my home state of Mississippi prepares to memorialize the five-year anniversary of America’s worst natural disaster, Pakistan will mark a month since the start of the floods.

Because of this post-Katrina milestone and my upcoming travels to Karachi, I’ve been considering the scope and response to both of these catastrophes. The two floods have superficial similarities, despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina was a smaller event in a better-equipped country.

This means that on the fifth anniversary of Pakistan’s worst natural disaster, things will probably look even less rosy than they do now in New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, clipping the southern tip of Florida before making a second landfall on August 29, seventy miles southeast of New Orleans—Louisiana’s biggest city, with a pre-storm population of 454,863. With winds of 205 kph, the hurricane was strong enough to breach levees surrounding the city.

New Orleans was submerged and 1,464 of its residents, dead. Not long after, the Mississippi coast sustained a direct hit, wiping out entire towns and taking the lives of an estimated 300 people. Altogether a million people lost their homes, damages totalled over $100 b and five years later, key infrastructures such as public education remain in disarray. New Orleans still has thousands of uninhabitable houses and has regained only 80 per cent of its pre-Katrina population. Thousands of displaced residents continue to live in temporary shelters. None of this bodes well for Pakistan, which one blogger has termed “Katrina on steroids.”

Keep reading at Pakistani paper The Express Tribune. For more of my post-Katrina photos, go here.

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