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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 18:09 GMT
Tourists to view Katrina damage
View of the New Orleans skyline with blue tarpaulins covering damaged roofs
Much of New Orleans is being patched up after the damage
A tour company is to offer an escorted bus trip through areas of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Visitors who once toured the French Quarter and nearby swamps will now see formerly flooded neighbourhoods.

Highlights will include the Superdome, which housed thousands of evacuees, while tour guides will explain how the city's levee system failed.

Residents are divided over the plans, which some feel are insensitive, but others believe can help the area.

"It's a catastrophe that happened here and I just think that people need to be a little more considerate," said Nakia James, who lived in New Orleans' flooded Ninth Ward.

People around the country don't understand it until they see it first hand
Greg Hoffman
Gray Line Tours
Gray Line's New Orleans manager Gary Hoffman, who saw his own home in the Lakeview area ruined by floods, defended the plan.

He said his wife convinced him to do the tours to highlight the slow pace of progress in resurrecting the city.

No photos

Gray Line is one of thousands of companies hit hard by the after-effects of the hurricane.

According to Mr Hoffman, the tour - called Hurricane Katrina: America's Worst Catastrophe - would help raise awareness of how the city is doing now.

A  wrecked car on the streets of New Orleans
Hurricane debris still litters many streets
"People around the country don't understand it until they see it firsthand," he said.

"We're going to walk them through what we as locals experienced leading up to and following the hurricane."

The three-hour tour, which will begin at the historic French Quarter, will cost $35 (20) for adults or $29 (16) for children.

Customers will not be allowed off the buses to take photos, and guides on board the buses will talk tourists through the key issues raised by the disaster.

Among the topics of discussion will be the history of the Mississippi river and the levee system, as well as the oil and gas industries of the Louisiana coastline.

Despite this, some feel the tours are exploitative.

"There should be tours, but they should be linked with people who are displaced and coming up with a plan of action," said Corlita Mahr of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Gray Line said that $3 of each ticket will be donated to one of five non-profit organisations in the area affected by the hurricane.

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