for National Geographic News
Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown on Thursday defended his agency's response to the chaos caused when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast four days ago.
Speaking at a news conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday afternoon, Brown said his agency and other federal agenciesincluding military unitsare "doing every single thing they can" to provide aid to the stricken area.
"Everybody in the country needs to take a big, deep breath," Brown said.
Brown insisted that a massive response to the disaster has been mobilized and that conditions in the Gulf Coast are not as bad as the press is reporting.
But news reports continued about horrific conditions in New Orleans and communities elsewhere on the Gulf Coast that have yet to receive the minimal supplies refugees need to stay alive.
MSNBC reported on its Web site this morning that National Guard troops just returning from duty in Iraq had been sent to New Orleans to help restore order.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on its Web site Thursday night that about a hundred people died in Saint Bernard Parish as they waited to be evacuated. Saint Bernard Parish, or county, is part of metropolitan New Orleans.
The deaths were reported by U.S. Representative Charles Melancon, the newspaper said.
The dead were among about 1,500 refugees waiting in Saint Bernard Parish to be bussed out of the devastated city.
At yesterday's news conference, Brown responded to harsh criticism from rescue workers and local officials on the Gulf Coast. He also addressed news reports of widespread disorder in New Orleans, especially around the Louisiana Superdome.
Thousands of refugees have been housed in the domed football stadium since the hurricane made landfall early Monday morning. Shortly before Brown's news conference, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued a "desperate SOS" for help for his city.
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