President Barack Obama was scheduled to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, Thursday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which the president is expected to call a “man-made” disaster, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. Once there, Obama is expected to deliver the speech in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest hit, predominantly African-American neighborhoods that critics have said suffered from an inadequate, disproportional emergency response after the 2005 storm in the Gulf Coast region.
“What started out as a natural disaster became a man-made one—a failure of government to look out for its own citizens,” Obama is expected to say, according to a Wall Street Journal report. To watch a live stream of Obama’s remarks at 4 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET), view the video player below or click here.
Obama was also expected to address the economic and social conditions that existed before the storm and how they were exaggerated by poor federal response. “New Orleans had long been plagued by structural inequality that left too many people, especially poor people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing,” reads his speech in part. “Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty.”
In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the region and killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 more. The storm also caused more than $100 billion in property damage, according to official estimates.
Thursday’s speech wouldn’t be the first time that the first African-American U.S. president has spoken out about structural inequalities of pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited the city on the fifth anniversary of the storm, in 2010, when Obama also called it a “manmade" catastrophe.
“We all remember it keenly: water pouring through broken levees; mothers holding their children above the waterline; people stranded on rooftops begging for help; bodies lying in the streets of a great American city,” Obama said in the 2010 speech. Just two years into his first term, the president also said he directed his administration to “cut the red tape” to help Gulf Coast storm victims apply for federal aid and continue putting their lives back together.