Fri, 19 Jul 2013 14:30:00 GMT | By AFP

Detroit becomes largest US city to file for bankruptcy

The automombile city's landscape is now littered with abandoned skyscrapers, factories and homes. It cannot even afford to keep the lights on - 40 percent of streetlights are out


Detroit becomes largest US city to file for bankruptcy (© Reuters)

Detroit became the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy protection after decades of decline and mismanagement rendered the home of the nation's auto industry insolvent. Once a bustling beacon of industrial might, the city is now a poster child for urban decay, its landscape littered with abandoned skyscrapers, factories and homes.

Crime is rampant, and the city literally cannot afford to keep the lights on - a whopping 40 percent of streetlights are out. Detroit's bankruptcy is expected to make it harder for municipalities in Michigan and other US states to borrow money by undermining confidence in what used to be among the most trusted bonds available.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said there was no other option. "This is a difficult step, but the only viable option to address a problem that has been six decades in the making," Snyder said in a press release. Detroit has seen its population shrink by more than half, from 1.8 million people in 1950 to 700,000 today.

Racial tensions sparked by the civil rights movement - and the devastating 1967 riots - exacerbated white and middle-class flight to the suburbs. Businesses followed suit, further shrinking the tax base. With less revenue, Detroit had to cut back on services, prompting even more people to leave and eventually sending the city into an economic tailspin.

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