August 29 was the first anniversary of the deadliest natural catastrophe in the American history, the day Hurricane Katrina devastated three southern states - Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Over 1, 800 people lost their lives in this disaster and more than 2 millions were displaced from their homes and are still facing the challenge of coping with the loss and starting a new beginning.
Among these refugees, were Laotian-Americans who resettled in these areas after the fall of the former royal Lao kingdom in 1975. In Louisiana, members of the Laotian-American community in the New Orleans area fled the Hurricane to receive help from Wat Lao Thammarattanaram of New Iberia. In hardest-hit Alabama, more than hundred Laotian-American families in Mobil received help and support from local and federal authorities.
On this first anniversary of Katrina, Mr. Somboun Novang, president of the Laotian-American community of Mobil, Alabama, talked to VOA about the hardship faced by members of his community, saying “the majority of Laotian-Americans in this region were mainly blue-collar workers, employed by seafood industries, who had lived near by the coast. During the Hurricane Katrina last year, there were more than hundred families that were affected by this catastrophe, but fortunately there’s no death in our community. Ourtemple was also severely damaged.”
He said, “We did get help from the local and federal authorities to resettle and start a new live all over again. We also received help from Lao-Americans from other regions. I would like to thank the Laotian-American community of Tennessee and the Temple that helped us with foods and supplies and also the Laotian-American National Alliance from Minnesota for the one-thousand dollar donation,.”
Mr. Somboun also tells VOA that some families who lost every thing, have moved and resettled else where with their relatives. Life is almost back to normal now for those who remained, children are back to school and many of workers are now back to their jobs.”
August is the beginning of the hurricane season in the US. In the South and Southeast, local authorities and many organizations are aware of the immenent dangers and prepare to face any resulting new challenges.
Listen to our Lao Diaspora report for more details.