For $35 (Ђ29) per person _ $28 (Ђ23) for children _ a New Orleans company is offering bus tours of some of the city's most misery-stricken spots, including the Superdome, the Convention Center and neighborhoods ravaged by &to=http://english.pravda.ru/accidents/21/97/385/16076_Katrina.html' target=_blank>Hurricane Katrina.
Residents disagree over whether the tours are crass and morbid exploitation, or a good way to help people grasp the enormity of the disaster and keep public attention focused on New Orleans' plight.
The three-hour tours, called "Hurricane Katrina _ America's Worst Castastrophe," were announced last week by Gray Line New Orleans, with the first one set for Jan. 4.
"It's a catastrophe that happened here and I just think that people need to be a little more considerate," said Nakia James, who lived in the devastated Ninth Ward.
But restaurant owner Roland Adams, tearing up the ruined oak flooring from his Lakeview living room, said it is great that tour guides have been told to explain the origins of the disaster, including deficient levees and other human errors.
"It's like an awareness program," he said.
The buses will start at the edge of the French Quarter, then drive past the Superdome and Convention Center, where thousands suffered in the heat for days without food or water. The tour also may include the destroyed marina and neighborhoods like the flooded Lakefront, Gentilly and eastern New Orleans areas.
Company vice president Gary Hoffman said he intends to show "the utmost sensitivity" to those whose homes were destroyed. After all, he said, they include about 60 percent of the company's 65 pre-Katrina employees, including himself.
The company will give $3 (Ђ2.50) per ticket to Katrina-related charities, he said. The tours will use major thoroughfares only and employ minibuses rather than big tour coaches, Hoffman said. Smaller streets and the Ninth Ward will not be part of the tour because "that would be too intrusive," he said.
Hoffman said he was less than enthusiastic when his wife and tour guides suggested a Katrina tour: "I said, `No. It's morbid. We're not trying to satisfy the desires of people who want to come here for the sake of looking at devastation."'
But, he said, he came to realize that news coverage cannot fully convey the damage.
"Congressmen and people from outside this area, they only understand it, they only get it, when they see it," Hoffman said. "If we're going to help New Orleans rebuild, we want people who visit New Orleans to see what happened, to see what devastation it's caused."