Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, claiming 1,800 lives in four states and causing more than $151bn (£98.11bn) in damages. The third-strongest hurricane ever in the US made a direct hit on New Orleans on 29 August 2005. The city's dated system of levees and flood walls failed in more than 50 places, and water inundated 85% of the bowl-like city which is mostly below sea level.

There were more than 50 failures of the levees and flood walls protecting the city, resulting in tens of billions of gallons of water rushing into the city. Nowhere was the devastation greater than in the poor, largely black, Lower Ninth Ward.

While the city was recovering from Katrina, it was hit by Hurricane Rita, the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The storm surge breached levees and flooded low-lying communities. Once again, the Lower Ninth Ward was devastated.

In this gallery, IBTimesUK looks back at scenes never before seen in an American city: desperate masses wading through flooded neighbourhoods, bodies decomposing on city streets, and residents on rooftops pleading for help.

Hurricane Katrina anniversary
30 August 2005: A mother and her children are rescued by boat from the Lower Ninth Ward during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane KatrinaMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
30 August 2005: A woman is carried in a bedsheet after being rescued by boat from the Lower Ninth WardMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
31 August 2005: Daryl Thompson holds his three-month-old daughter Dejanae as they wait with other displaced residents on a motorway in the hopes of catching a lift out of townMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
1 September 2005: Residents are airlifted from a roof by helicopterDavid J Phillip/AFP
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
1 September 2005: Residents wait to be rescued on a roof. Authorities suspended an evacuation of New Orleans after a reported shooting at a US military helicopter. President George W Bush urged 'zero tolerance' for lawlessness in the wake of Hurricane KatrinaDavid J Phillip/AFP
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
4 September 2005: An aerial view of houses surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane KatrinaDavid J Phillip/AFP
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
5 September 2005: A covered corpse floats in the water in the Lower Ninth Ward of New OrleansChris Graythen/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
8 September 2005: David Jackson 82, is rescued after becoming trapped in his home in the heavily damaged Ninth WardMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
9 September 2005: A seagull flies past a submerged van in the aftermath of Hurricane KatrinaMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
16 September 2005: A church remains standing amidst destroyed houses in the Lower Ninth Ward, 19 days after the deadly storm hitJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
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20 September 2005: An aerial view of a neighbourhood where floodwaters have receded, as Hurricane Rita approachesJim Watson/AFP
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23 September 2005: A statue of the Virgin Mary stands in flood waters outside a house in the lower Ninth WardJessica Rinaldi /Reuters
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23 September 2005: Water flows into the ninth ward through a breach in the repaired Inner Harbour Canal as Hurricane Rita passes through the Gulf of MexicoJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
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24 September 2005: A truck is submerged as flood waters pour into the Lower Ninth Ward after levees broke in the aftermath of Hurricane RitaJessica Rinaldi /Reuters
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26 September 2005: An aerial view of the Ninth Ward, flooded after Hurricanes Katrina and RitaRobyn Beck/AFP
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26 September 2005: A barge sits among flooded homes in the Ninth Ward after a storm surge caused a break in the Industrial Canal leveeRobyn Beck/AFP
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
30 August 2005: People are rescued from their homes in high water in the Ninth Ward after Hurricanes Katrina and RitaMario Tama/Getty Images
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2 October 2005: Ninth Ward residents Steven and Jackie Robinson get their first look at their home. The Robinsons were riding on a customised monster truck brought to the city by a private citizen from Florida to help the local population get a look at the remnants of their livesRobyn Beck/AFP
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4 October 2005: Michael Jones helps his grandmother Lucendia Jones, 74, as she visits her home in the Upper Ninth Ward. Most of the items in the home were destroyed by flood waters over five feet high after Hurricanes Katrina and RitaRobyn Beck/AFP
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4 October 2005: Edward Jones, 75, sorts through family papers at his home in the Ninth Ward, more than a month after Hurricane KatrinaRobyn Beck/AFP
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11 October 2005: An aerial view of the damage inflicted to homes in the direct path of floodwaters from the breach of the Industrial Canal levee in the Ninth Ward of New OrleansLucas Jackson/Reuters
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12 October 2005: A photograph of Mary Beth Hawkins and her goddaughter sits on the porch as her grandson Paul Murphy, 22, exits her home. Murphy returned to the Ninth Ward on the day it was opened to residents following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Although his grandmother's home had been searched by rescuers at least twice, he discovered her decomposing body still insideLucas Jackson/Reuters
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12 October 2005: Paul Murphy (R), 22, hugs his best friend Irvin Gettridge, 26, after finding the decomposed body of Mary Beth Hawkins, Murphy's grandmother, inside her flood-damaged home in the newly re-opened lower Ninth WardLucas Jackson/Reuters
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
16 October 2005: Graffiti is daubed on Fats Domino's house in the Ninth Ward. The legendary blues musician returned home and had a laugh at the tributes spray-painted on his house after fans assumed he had died in the storm. He is still alive today, 10 years after KatrinaLucas Jackson/Reuters
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24 December 2005: The drooping blades of a mould-covered ceiling fan are seen in a flood-destroyed house in the Lower Ninth Ward on Christmas EveEthan Miller/Getty Images
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24 February 2006: Workers use torches to cut up the barge that floated into the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricanes Katrina and RitaLucas Jackson/Reuters

Today, 10 years after the Lower Ninth Ward was devastated by Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward still bears physical scars from the hurricane. Abandoned houses sit on overgrown plots.

Hurricane Katrina anniversary
Damaged houses and vacant plots are seen in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the most heavily damaged areas of the city following a levee breach along the Industrial Canal during the aftermath of Hurricane KatrinaMario Tama/Getty Images
Hurricane Katrina anniversary
Abandoned hurricane-damaged houses are seen in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, 10 years after KatrinaReuters/Getty Images/AFP

Only 34% of New Orlean's former population has returned. Taken as a whole, the city's black population has dropped from nearly 67% in 2000 to 59% today. Whites, once about 25% of residents, now account for nearly a third.

"The people who have not returned have been disproportionately African-American, renters, low-income, single mothers and persons with disabilities," says Lori Peek, an associate professor of sociology at Colorado State University and co-editor of the book, Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora.