Earthquake stroke Kobe Japan a few years ago killing 200,000 people. True, however is the recent ruthless, Hurricane Katrina hit of Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast August 29, as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 145 mph It flooded 90,000 square miles displacing 400,000 people. 1 The official death toll now stands at 1,302 and the damage estimated from $70 to $130 billion. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over one million persons were displaced, and hundreds of thousands remain dispersed throughout the U.S. including some 200,000 people staying in 65,000 rooms in 10,000 hotels or motels nationwide. Additional thousands are reportedly still housed in Texas churches. Forty-three states are now eligible for federal assistance to help meet needs of evacutees. More than 200,000 people also lost their jobs across the affected Gulf region. However, experience from the historical disasters has established a dichotomy between disaster and peoples resilience. People have been able to adapt very first by embarking on reconstruction regardless of the impact.
In the wake of Katrina for example resilience has gained a new relevance. Relatively, resilience and catastrophes are two inseparable entities that depend on demographics and the impact of the devastation. Just as some people can fend off traumatic illness while others succumb, not all cities are equally of rebounding from a shock to the system. A person whose health is compromised to begin with, has less chance of recovery than an individual in full health. So too is a city.
New Orleans, which already was burdened with huge social and economic problems long before Katrina arrival have played a major role in determining how well the Crescent City will recover from the storm and its aftermath. Urban resilience, moreover, is not necessarily progressive. In spite of the seeming tabular Rasa opportunity a major disaster can offer to correct old errors and put things right, reconstruction tends to favor the status quo. Even if city buildings are toppled, foundations are often reusable and property lines remain. Insurance claims and simple inertia help push landowners to rebuild more or less what they lost. The deep psychological need to see things put quickly back the way they were has also had a positive impact on resiliency and thereof reconstruction. While a disaster can trigger a host of long-term innovations, these tend not to surface in the immediate wake of a catastrophe. Visionary schemes have been the stuff of good times, when people can afford the luxury of debating possible future. The last thing people want to do in the middle of a disaster is wait around for the minute of a brave new plan to be refined for implementation.
When London burned in 1666, Christopher Wren, John Evelyn's and others, full of axial boulevards and capacious plazas; all remained on paper, floated grand schemes. What Londoners returned to instead, was a city that looked and felt much as it did before the conflagration. And while Chicago great fire of 1871 eventually yielded a city of fire-proof masonry buildings as well as the first skyscrapers, the initial reconstruction phase fell back to erecting very kinds of rickety firetraps that caused the catastrophe in the first place. This notion of regressive resilience extends also to a city social order and