|Mourners dropped notes and letters, stained with tears, into a steel-gray casket [AFP]
Hundreds of mourners in the southern US state of Louisiana have attended a symbolic mock funeral to commemorate five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
The funeral on Saturday was one of dozens of events planned to mark the fifth anniversary of the massive storm that wrecked the US coast along the Gulf of Mexico.
Mourners dropped notes, cards and letters, many of them stained with tears, into a steel-gray casket.
One letter written by a child in red crayon said: "Go away from us."
Mourning the victims
Another note recalled one of the 1,800 victims of Katrina: "R.I.P. Gloria, I will always love you."
The casket was later interred under a dark sky as rain pounded umbrellas.
"I asked for no more suffering, for everything to come back to where it was," Walter Gifford, 47, said of his note.
Gifford rebuilt his home and moved back to the area near New Orleans after the storm. "I ask for the sadness for so many to end."
Nancy Volpe, 61, who moved back into her house in November, said she cried a lot while writing her letter.
"But I'm finally home. I can't tell you how much better I know the meaning of that word - home," she said.
The ceremony came a day ahead of a series of events planned to mark the anniversary of the day Katrina ripped through the city of New Orleans, flooding the city and causing billions of dollars in damage.
|The funeral was one of dozens of events to mark fifth anniversary of the hurricane [AFP]
Ray Nagin, the former mayor of New Orleans, came under immense pressure following the crisis and was heavily criticised for his handling of the storm's aftermath.
He told Al Jazeera that the evacuation was not as fast as it should have been.
"It was the first time we had ever done a mandatory evacuation, so there were a few things we had to work out," Nagin said.
"Katrina was very deceptive. It wasn’t until late Saturday night that I got a call saying it was headed directly to New Orleans.
"Although it was a mandatory evacuation, many people chose to stay or couldn’t leave for whatever reason," Nagin added.
'Committed to rebuilding'
Barack Obama, the US president, is to speak at Xavier University on Sunday, which, like 80 per cent of New Orleans, was flooded when the levees failed.
He will remember those who died and reassure those who have returned that he is committed to completing the rebuilding.
Rebuilding could not start in New Orleans for a month after the August 29, 2005 storm, because floodwaters were still being pumped out of the city.
A march and "healing ceremony" were also scheduled in the Lower 9th Ward, where many houses still stand vacant, with a circle painted on them indicating they had been searched and whether bodies were in them.
The city of New Orleans will mark the anniversary with a quite ceremony on Sunday night, including a tolling of the bells of St Louis Cathedral, the famed building overlooking Jackson Square, and a candlelight vigil for the dead.
But one resident, Barbara Washington, 77, who lost her home in New Orleans and is now living in a suburb, said she is tired of the anniversaries.
"I miss my home every day. I feel lost. But I also know we are getting back. We're survivors."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies