FEMA Head Defends Katrina Relief Response

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Brown said federal disaster relief workers were in place and ready to respond before the powerful hurricane came ashore early Monday morning. In some cases, their response was slowed because of the unprecedented flooding in New Orleans caused when levees broke, he said.

Brown said he understood why local disaster relief workers and emergency management officials are frustrated when the supplies they expect don't arrive. But the relief effort is moving more smoothly and efficiently than has been portrayed in news reports, he said.

The "full force" of the federal government is being used to provide help to victims, he said.

Troop Deployment

Brown lashed out at news reports of widespread disorder in New Orleans, noting that there were a few "really bad people out there" who were causing problems, and that whenever they caused a problem, someone was there to get it on film.

Lt. Gen. Russell Honore, a U.S. Army commander, said at the news conference that thousands of National Guard troops have been sent to Louisiana and Mississippi, the two states hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. And more troops are arriving every day, Honore said.

Brown said the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq has not affected the federal government's ability to cope with the hurricane disaster.

Brown also said conditions will steadily improve in New Orleans and elsewhere as more troops and supplies reach the area. "It will get better and better as the days go by," he said.

The Times-Picayune reported Thursday night that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco demanded an apology from the U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert for a remark he made earlier about rebuilding New Orleans.

Hastert said it might not make sense to rebuild the city, which is below sea level and surrounded by water. Blanco said it was "unthinkable … that Hastert should kick us when we're down" and demanded "an immediate apology," the Times-Picayune reported.

Hurricane Katrina came ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana with winds of 140 miles an hour (225 kilometers an hour) and a storm surge of at least 20 feet (6 meters). The storm made another landfall several hours later on the Mississippi coast, and caused heavy damage from Louisiana to Florida.

The reported death toll is approaching 200, but many more are thought to have died in the storm and its aftermath.

Willie Drye is the author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, published by National Geographic.

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