WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama paid tribute Monday to the grit of the people of the US Gulf Coast, exactly six years after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore and inundated New Orleans.

After a weekend in which Hurricane Irene tore up the US east coast, the president argued that federal disaster preparedness efforts had markedly improved since the botched government response to Katrina.

"Six years ago today, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, upending families and ravaging communities -- and no one will forget the tragic events of those days," Obama said in a written statement.

"But what's required of us is more than remembrance -- what's required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover," Obama said.

"Over the past several years, we've seen what Americans are capable of when tested. We've seen the grit and determination of people on the Gulf Coast coming together to rebuild their communities, brick by brick, block by block."

Obama vowed that his administration would keep fighting to cut through red tape to free up recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi, to mend an education system devastated by Katrina and to improve long-term housing.

On the fifth anniversary of Katrina last year, Obama traveled to New Orleans and pledged support for the city until the job of rebuilding was done.

Long famed for its jazz scene and easy-going spirit, New Orleans was plunged into chaos on August 29, 2005 when torrents of water broke through barriers and gushed in.

Although 1.4 million residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate as the monster storm approached, many could not or would not and were left stranded.

A lack of preparation and bungled coordination forced residents to take shelter in attics, and then break through their roofs to escape rising water.

The botched response and confusion between the federal government and local authorities also soured many Americans on the leadership of president George W. Bush and inflicted a heavy political price on his administration.