Landrieu slams FEMA – Offers of help ignored, photo op rather than action
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Saturday accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency of failing to accept offers that would have eased post-hurricane problems in New Orleans — including a plan for the Forest Service to douse fires in the city with aircraft used to fight fire.
On Friday, Landrieu asked President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts. She reiterated that request on Saturday. “Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Landrieu said. “Twenty-four hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.
Landrieu said that FEMA has inexplicably failed to take advantage of offers of help.
“I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet,” Landrieu said. “Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.
Landrieu said that her “greatest disappointment” is the lack of progress fixing the breached 17th Street levee.
“Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government,” Landrieu said.