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While much of the antiques quarter in New Orleans was not directly affected by the flooding when the Mississippi levees gave way, the ensuing evacuations and devastation of the city cut a swathe through business there as it did across the region.

A year on and the newly printed phone book lists 119 antiques dealers still in business – down from 145 before the storm.

Directly after the catastrophe, Bill Rau of the French Quarter’s most prestigious antiques store, M.S. Rau, bought one-way tickets to Dallas and traded from borrowed space in New York. Now he is not only back in the Big Easy, but boasts of his best year ever, although he is not sure how he has achieved this. “I can’t figure it out. It’s not from walk-ins,” he told the US media. “I believe we’ve got some of the sympathy vote.”

He is hoping that visitors will soon return when they realise that much of the business and shopping district is fine. In the meantime, he is developing the internet side of his business to get pictures and catalogues out to clients.

Not everyone has been so fortunate. French Antique Shop co-owner Nicole Freelander reported sales down 75 per cent from a year ago because of the lack of visitors. Others have had problems replacing staff as the city has lost a huge slice of its workforce.

Arthur Harris, of Harris Antiques on the landmark Royal Street, does not expect trade to pick up until next year when the business conventions are due to return. But Neal Auction Company of Magazine Street were up and running again in time for their $3.5m Louisiana Purchase Auction last December. Since then they have held a $1.8m sale in March and a $2.5m sale in May.

By Ivan Macquisten