Surviving Katrina and its aftermath: Evacuation and community mobilization by Vietnamese Americans and African Americans

Wei Li, Christopher Airriess, Angela Chen, Karen Leong, Verna M. Keith, Karen Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005 uncovered critical issues in local, state, and national strategies for emergency preparedness and disaster relief. The Katrina disaster reveals the persistent racial inequality and economic disparities in American society. This paper examines the pre-Katrina socio-spatial configuration of the African-American and Vietnamese-American communities in an eastern New Orleans suburb. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to collect data and compare the two groups, our study reveals media are the first and foremost information sources for both groups. Many Katrina victims evacuated more than once, some not with their families during their first and subsequent relocations. However, the communities mobilized to provide intra- and inter-group self-help among families and relatives, friends and neighbors, while receiving assistance from community organizations, religious institutions, and the government. Compared to African Americans, there were higher percentages of Vietnamese Americans learning about Katrina's impending landfall from government sources, evacuating before Katrina's landfall, and being more satisfied with assistance provided by the government. Those who are lacking in English skills reported more difficulties compared to their co-ethnics. These findings lead to several policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-286
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • African Americans
  • Evacuation
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • New Orleans
  • Vietnamese Americans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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