Still at risk:

How quickly the sense of urgency flags. Even as Hurricane Dean heads toward the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is frighteningly far from being prepared to withstand a storm with even a fraction of Katrina’s power. New Orleans is still a city very much at risk. The

task of rebuilding its rickety system of levees has proved hugely difficult, while the government’s efforts have been far less than what was promised and what is needed.

The Army Corps of Engineers has taken a piecemeal, disorganised approach to the reconstruction of the city’s defences. And though most of the task remains to be done, the corps seems to have lost its sense of urgency. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which experts say funnelled floodwater into the city, has not been closed off. The corps says it is waiting for proposals from contractors to do the job. The corps aims to build up a defence system able to withstand a 1-in-100 storm by 2011. But it will require more funding: double the amount of $7 billion that has been appropriated so far. Tens of thousands of battered residents who abandoned homes and lives are not going to return until they can be assured that they will be safe, while the people who stayed are still at risk. Two years after Katrina, that is shameful — and not what Bush, Congress and the corps promised. — The New York Times