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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Deep frustration in New Orleans
The BBC's Gavin Hewitt was in New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina last year. Twelve months later, he returns to see what has changed - and what has not.

New Orleans' resident Anthony Howard takes a break from working on rebuilding his grandmother's house
Tension and confusion have risen over the rebuilding process

The water has subsided and some neighbourhoods are coming back to life, but this is a city where debris is still being collected, and carried away from the city by truck.

My estimation is that probably 80% of the debris has been removed - but it is noticeable that the process is still going on.

Houses are still being knocked down, especially in badly-affected areas like the Lower Ninth Ward and St Bernard Parish.

Even in areas that were not the worst hit, like Gentilly, people have moved back to some homes, but others stand empty.

It is very hard to find a neighbourhood that is functioning like it was before the storm.


There are still estimated to be at least 200,000 people who have not returned to the city.

City residents are coming back on a daily basis, however. Many strip their houses of debris - and even look after their lawns - but still cannot stay in their homes.

Social workers have told us the break-up of relationships is common - there have been suicides

There has been a great deal of confusion over a city directive saying that if home owners did not gut their damaged properties by Tuesday 29 August, their houses could be seized.

People in the city have been using wheelbarrows to take out every kind of possession - the plaster and mould on the walls, the curtains, bits of furniture, crushed toys, damp and faded clothes - because they are afraid their houses will be demolished.

But last Friday, the city council said the order did not apply to the Lower Ninth Ward.

Sign outside a hurricane-damaged house in New Orleans
The rebuilding of New Orleans still has a long way to go
Mayor Ray Nagin says the Ninth Ward will be rebuilt, although he said it might require different building regulations.

This has certainly led to some tension, with uncertainty about which neighbourhoods will be rebuilt.

There is also still a great deal of confusion about what people are entitled to.

More than 100,000 people have signed up for housing grants.

Most of that money has not been distributed and there is frustration among many as they struggle to work out how to get the money they have been promised.

Families split

The stress is taking a toll on the victims of the hurricane, especially for families living crowded together in trailers.

Stacks of cars in scrap yards in New Orleans, a year on from Hurricane Katrina
Debris is still being cleared from the city
Social workers have told us the break-up of relationships is common. There have been suicides.

Some families have been split, with children staying with relatives outside the city while a parent moves back to New Orleans to try to rebuild.

One woman said she had seen her daughter twice in the past year.

Five year recovery

People here will be pleased that President George Bush is visiting to mark the anniversary of the Hurricane. But deep frustration remains.

There is a widespread feeling that the government failed this city 12 months ago.

Time and time again people have said to me that the government - federal, local or state - has acted slowly.

A lot of people are saying that it is going to be five years before New Orleans is the city it once was.

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