Behind the facade, a city left to rot

As cafe society blooms in the tourist areas of New Orleans, poor ex-residents struggle to survive

Julian Borger in New Orleans
Tuesday August 29, 2006
The Guardian

The late-night bars and jazz clubs are open in the French Quarter, as are the cafes in the elegant Garden District. One year after the worst natural disaster in US history, New Orleans is gamely giving the impression that the good times are rolling again.

But a couple of miles to the north or east, the Cajun bravura falls away like a cheap carnival mask, the streets fall quiet and the Crescent City becomes a dead zone.

Hurricane Katrina left behind less than half of New Orleans. The storm killed 1,500 people and scattered the rest. Out of a pre-hurricane population of 450,000, so far just over 200,000 have returned to build their lives, according to independent estimates. The others have either found better options elsewhere or are waiting in trailers for government reconstruction assistance and a development plan that has so far failed to materialise.

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