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Hurricane Katrina

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Race, class, ethnic identity, poverty level, age, gender and other factors have their impact on social vulnerability. In 2005, the Gulf Coast of the USA was stricken by the terrible hazard that caused the discussion of social vulnerability impact.
Social vulnerability includes the reduction of person’s ability to anticipate, resist, handle and recover from the influence of natural and man-made disasters. Race is one of the most substantial and powerful factors of social vulnerability.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most destructive disasters in the American history.. The major hurricane struck New Orleans on 29 August, 2005 and caused great damage and resulted in many victims. Eventually, all levees were broken and 80% of city’s area was flooded. Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2000 people. Moreover, it caused huge material and economic losses.
The day before the disaster, many people left New Orleans according to the mass evacuation warning. Nearly 80% of the local population fled the city before the natural disaster. However, not every person could leave the city. Most of the citizens that stayed in New Orleans were African Americans, who belonged to the poor class in the United States. Therefore, they suffered most from the disaster. Based on the foregoing, race is connected closely with class and poverty.

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New Orleans is located on the highest point at the crossroads of the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico. The city was increasing its area and spreading into water. Social geography of the city was changing as well. In 1950s and 1960s, the population influxes of Black occurred, and governance of New Orleans approved the construction of apartments for the African Americans. The buildings were located in undesirable territories like the coastal zone, reclaimed land or near industrial establishments. The opportunities of employment for the African Americans were rather low, which resulted in mass poverty and low standard of living for the social class. Moreover, the poor education hindered the opportunity for the better children’s future. Therefore, based on the social geography, Hurricane Katrina affected the vulnerable groups of people. Actually, the impossibility to quantify and measure the disasters causes the disregard of social vulnerability and race factor in the aftermath. According to Cutter (2006), “Social vulnerability is partially a product of social inequalities—those social factors and forces that create the susceptibility of various groups to harm, and in turn affect their ability to respond, and bounce back (resilience) after the disaster.”

Race is one of the important social vulnerability factors. After Hurricane Katrina, its relevance in terms of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery from the disaster in 2005 was discovered. The intentional or unintentional racial discrimination was evident during the disaster. Mass media promulgated the Hurricane’s aftermath in New Orleans, which affected the vast number of Black people. In fact, they had to stay in New Orleans because of their poverty, material failure and lack of the US government’s attention. The Black Americans were not prepared to evacuate. The racial vulnerability factor caused the minority group to be stricken the most by a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans pointed to the imperfections of the actions during disasters of such magnitude and the prejudice in society.

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Thus, the underestimation of social vulnerability factors has negative effects on the population and the country in general. The USA government failed to respond correctly to the needs of the vulnerable group, which led to victims and economic losses. African Americans are also American citizens and they are worthy of dignified attitude, respect and protection. People should address the vulnerability and increase disaster resilience. We have to live in harmony with nature and care for every citizen.

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