US VISIT: Kieran McAndrew
US VISIT: Kieran McAndrew

A lot like New Orleans

CONCRETE stairs leading to nowhere remain erect in streets of flattened earth.

Some areas show no sign of disruption, but others look the same as they did nine years ago.

The city is alive, but the wounds of Hurricane Katrina are still raw and worn by the 370,000 people who remain after the natural disaster that rocked the world.

When Grafton's Kieran McAndrew visited New Orleans last month, he saw first-hand the state of a city in recovery.

"Some parts are still extremely sad," he said.

"You can see the front stairs of a house, but no house because it was destroyed.

"I only met about 20 locals, but there is almost half a million people in New Orleans, and there is almost half a million stories, each that will make you cry."

With a keen interest in Hurricane Katrina, Mr McAndrew, who works as a water cycle engineer with Clarence Valley Council, was eager to see how a city, which shares many parallels with the Clarence Valley, recovered after such a tragic event.

"I can definitely see similarities between New Orleans and Grafton, one being both populations live behind a man-made levee," he said.

"Because of these parallels, we can learn a lot from it and apply things to our own flood management here."

Mr McAndrew said complacency was the number one crime in New Orleans as the storm approached back in August, 2005.

"We see this here too," he said.

"Over there people thought 'those poor people in Florida are going to be hit again, it is not going to hit us', and perhaps that is the attitude of people in Grafton with our floods."

He spent time with the CEO of the American Red Cross Southern Louisiana region Kay Wilkins who was heavily involved with the Hurricane Katrina operations.

"She said she remembers the generosity of the Australian people at that time and all the donations that were given to help them rebuild and asked me to thank the Australians," Mr McAndrew said.

"It really was an eye opener to see after almost 10 years, the state it's still in.

"I don't know if they ever will recover."

The trip to New Orleans was an independent leg of the journey on the back of a Grafton Midday Rotary exchange trip to Mexico which Mr McAndrew was granted to take during his annual leave.

He and a small group of young professionals in similar industries from southern Queensland/Northern NSW went on the sponsored trip to four states in Mexico.

"We visited the local councils and saw how they ran things over there," he said.

"Mexico is a very dry country like Australia and we have the same issues with water scarcity so it was interesting to compare strategies."

Mr McAndrew visited various water plants, flood-torn cities and sewerage plants to see how the Mexicans dealt with similar issues.

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