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Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans Mayor is "Pissed"

from Yahoo News
United States (AFP) - Local officials stepped up their criticism of Washington's response to the killer Hurricane Katrina, branding its failure to speed troops and relief a "national disgrace."

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New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he "talked to everybody under the sun," including President George W. Bush, but had little success accelerating the dispatch of troops and buses to his flooded city terrorized by armed gangs.

"They think small. This is a major, major, major deal," he told CNN television. He earlier told a local radio station, "every day we delay, people are dying and they're dying in the hundreds, I'm willing to bet you."

Nagin said he told Bush, who was to visit the disaster zone on Friday, that "his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice."

"I have been all over this city and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshall resources and we are outmanned in just about every respect. ... I am pissed."

Administration officials say they are doing their utmost to rush manpower and supplies to help survivors of Katrina, which lashed the US Gulf Coast on Monday, leaving thousands feared dead.

But they said they were hampered by the fetid waters inundating 80 percent of the city which have left tens of thousands of people stranded in squalid, sweltering and increasingly dangerous conditions.

Terry Ebbert, the head of New Orleans' emergency operations, was unimpressed by the explanations offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other departments.

"This is a national disgrace," he said. "FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to (Asian) tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

With more than 4,000 National Guardsmen already in New Orleans, US authorities said they expected to have 22,000 on the ground in affected areas of the state of Louisiana by Friday.

But Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco insisted she told Bush earlier in the week that she needed 40,000 federal troops.

"We just did not have enough resources in a timely fashion," the Democrat told CNN. "The ramp-up was not as rapid as we needed."

Amid reports of survivors falling dead in shelters, rotting corpses piling up and gunfights and fistfights erupting, Blanco said situation was ripe for further disaster.

"When your whole network of civilization falls apart, when you have no communications capacity, when you don't have power, you don't have water ... anything can happen. And it has happened," she said.

Bush has been accused of being slow to break off his month-long holiday at his Texas ranch to crank up the federal response to one of the country's worst national disasters.

A poll published Thursday found that 59 percent of Americans felt the federal government was not doing enough to help hurricane victims. Leading US newspapers Friday also blasted the tardy response.

"How could the government have been so unready for a crisis that was so widely predicted," asked The Washington Post.

"The sluggish, initial response ... has embittered and inflamed tens of thousands of people awaiting relief, most of them poor and black and many of them old and sick," the Post said in an editorial.

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