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Katrina's Refugees 'Stuck in Limbo'

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

They look like internment camps. The long rows of identical white trailers sit on flat, grim, barren expanses of land that are enclosed by metal fences. Armed guards are stationed at the entrances around the clock. More than a year after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of the poorest victims from New Orleans are still living in trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) across the Gulf Coast. It is an outrage, says Irwin Redlener, an expert in disaster response, that so many people are still stuck in limbo—unable to find jobs or permanent housing, denied adequate medical and educational services, and with no idea when, or if, they will be able to return to New Orleans. "The recovery of this catastrophe in the Gulf has been as badly mangled by the government as the initial response," says Redlener. "Fifteen months have gone by and you still have these thousands of people who . . . are just waiting for something to happen."

Bob Herbert