New Orleans is set to host its annual party the “Southern Decadence,” one year after the southern United States city was wrecked by hurricane Katrina.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) party was held to blame by conservative Christian leaders for the disaster that emptied the city’s population into surrounding states, and has left the city requiring billions of dollars in aid.
“We lost 137,000 homes here due to the storm, but the parts of town that center the gay community are dry and have recovered well,” Larry Bagneris, Mayor Ray Nagin’s LGBT representative, told the Bay Area Reporter this week.
He also joked that despite the blame resting on “Southern Decadence” for the cities troubles, God “must have had bad aim because the hurricane missed us completely.”
“This act of God destroyed a wicked city,” said Repent America director Michael Marcavage on the organisation’s Web site in the wake of Katrina, as reported earlier this year by PinkNews.co.uk.
City officials have called the situation a “tale of two cities,” with some areas already getting back to pre-disaster life and others empty.
Health care services in the city remain in tatters, with one third still closed and those that are open aiming to become more self dependent to deal with the conditions in New Orleans, Reuters reports.
This has included widespread use of backup generators and some having to build their own water wells.
“We’re not even prepared for the regular flu (season),” Frederick Blum, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told Reuters. “Hopefully it won’t take another disaster to get everyone’s attention.”
“Most of us were displaced but not challenged in Katrina’s aftermath,” Mr Bagneris said. “Most of the gay communities that were affected are now dry.”
There are apparently already tens of thousands returned to the city, of the 200,000 that have ventured back.
Yet the party is ready to start in New Orleans for the thousands in the local LGBT community, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
It is hoped that the “Southern Decadence” will bring 250,000 more people to the recovering city.
Currently the population of New Orleans is around 200,000 people, less than half present pre-Katrina.
“The professional people have all returned and are back to work. It was those working in the service industry that was hit the hardest,” Bagneris claims.
“When the levees breached it was the low and middle (income) families that were hit the hardest. It has been harder for them to get their lives back and some parts of town are still in shambles.”
Whilst a grim picture has been painted of the backdrop to the return of the LGBT community, Bagneris told reporters that the community itself was faring well.
“All the LGBT businesses are back up and running and we are expecting a great time during Southern Decadence, where a whole bunch of folks will be visiting.”
The poor response to the crisis by President Bush has, more than Iraq or any other foreign policy, seen his approval rating drop.
The problems affecting New Orleans have seen it compared more to Baghdad than New York.