According to the Environment Public Health Impacts of Disasters Workshop (2007), the social impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and Louisiana include loss of lives, mental health problems, loss of recreation activities, shortage of housing, air pollution, improper drainage systems, limited medical services, vector infestation, food contamination, and the challenge of unwatering flooded areas (p. 17).
When the hurricane hit Louisiana, a significant number of people who chose to remain behind during evacuation lost their lives. Some drowned in their homes while others were swept away by the floods. The hurricane destroyed homes, leaving thousands of people homeless. This caused lots of mental stress to a majority of the victims, thus necessitating trauma counselling. Both Louisiana and New Orleans have access to the coastline which serves as a recreational spot for the locals. After the floods, however, all recreational activities such as swimming and boating were stopped because the shoreline was unsafe. Left with no outlet for their pent up emotions, mental problems were heightened among the affected population.
Most hospitals and medical centers were destroyed by the hurricane, causing a severe shortage of medical services needed to care for the injured and the sick. The medical facilities brought in by the government and rescue groups could not adequately cater for the huge population. This was further compounded by illnesses caused by vectors such as mosquitoes and flies which bred on the stagnant water. Allergy cases caused by exposure to dust and mold that polluted the air were on the rise. Food shortages caused by destruction of agricultural firms and flooding of food establishments made survival unbearable. People sought left-overs from retail stores that survived the hurricane hit at the risk of consuming contaminated food (yeast and bacterial infections).
Draining the flooded city proved difficult since more ‘than 80% of New Orleans city is below sea level’ (p. 17). Digging channels that could direct the flow of water towards to Gulf was time consuming and tedious. In addition, most of the drainage systems such as sewers and pumps were submerged by the flood, thus compounding sanitation problems.
- Economic impacts of Hurricane Katrina
According to Dolfman, Wasser & Bergman (2007), the economic impacts of the Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans include decline of key industries and job loss.
The major industries that drive the New Orleans economy are tourism, port operations and educational services. The tourism industry depends on recreation and entertainment as its major source of income. After the disaster, recreation activities were halted because the coastline was inaccessible. Furthermore, fetes that attracted tourists to the city such as the Mardi Gras could not be organized because of the flooded streets, and shortage accommodation facilities. As a result, this industry declined.
Port operations bring in the second highest revenue after tourism. The port serves ships from close to 60 countries yearly (p. 4). After the hurricane disaster, the port stopped its operations because most of the coastline was submerged, and some equipment had been swept away into the Gulf. The local authority lost revenue in form of custom and excise duty.
Before the floods, New Orleans was known as a hub for higher education because of its numerous universities, colleges and technical schools. These institutions attracted students from other states who brought in tax revenue. In addition, the salary taxes from professionals and instructors employed in these institutions funded majority of the state’s social amenities. Most people fled the city shortly before the floods, and were reluctant to return after the disaster had passed. With employment at its lowest, the state’s revenue kitty was dealt a huge blow.
Job losses were mainly caused by destruction of places of work, and the departure of people from the city to seek refuge and medical care in other states (p. 9). This significantly reduced the taxes obtained from salaries. For example, the tourism industry lost 22,900 jobs and about $382.7 million in wages (p. 5). Most industries were forced to increase the average weekly wage to persuade employees to come to work, thus increasing the cost of business operations.
However, the construction industry was the first to recover in the months after the disaster. This may be attributed to the need for new housing and structures. As a result, employment increased to ‘about 4927 new jobs and an injection of about $1.8 million into the economy’ (p. 8).
Dolfman, M. L., Wasser, S. F., & Bergman, B. “The Effects of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans Economy.” Monthly Labour Review. (2007): 3-18. Web. 3 June. 2014.
Environmental Public Health Impacts of Disasters: Hurricane Katrina, Workshop Summary. “Hurricane Katrina: Challenges for the Community.” The National Academies Press, 20001. (2007): 16-18. Web. 3 June. 2014.