After criticism, Google goes back to New Orleans maps showing Katrina damage

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Google is once again showing New Orleans in ruins after the company came under fire for replacing post-Hurricane Katrina imagery on its popular map portal with views of the city as it existed before the storm.

An Associated Press article on Thursday highlighted the changes, leading a U-S House subcommittee to accuse Google of "airbrushing history" for depicting a New Orleans and Mississippi Gulf Coast without hurricane damage.

The new satellite imagery, which offers a bird's eye view of the world, now shows post-Katrina New Orleans dotted by blue protective tarps on damaged roofs and the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood covered in debris.

Still, the new images are outdated. For example, there is no sign of the massive floodgates that the Army Corps of Engineers built on three drainage canals.

Google is still using pre-Katrina pictures for some small coastal towns on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Places like Waveland, Bay Saint Louis and Pass Christian were obliterated by Katrina but were intact on Google maps.

Google's director for satellite imagery, John Hanke, said in an entry on Google's blog today (Monday) that the imagery was changed last September "with pre-Katrina aerial photography of much higher resolution as part of a regular series of global data enhancements."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)