Progress in New Orleans these days means that the authorities
have evacuated just about everyone. Good news means that the
final death toll will be way below the 10,000 once feared,
and may not even reach 1,000.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has plugged the holes in the
levees and begun the long process of pumping the water back
into Lake Pontchartrain. It said a new computer model showed
that all areas of the city would be pumped dry by Oct. 18,
about 40 days from when the estimate was made.
Col. Terry J. Ebbert, the city's director of homeland
security, said the holdouts remaining in the city now
numbered fewer than 5,000. About 484,000 people lived in the
city before the hurricane struck. Colonel Ebbert said it
would take two weeks before the search for the dead could
yield a reliable assessment of the final numbers.
And for the first time since the hurricane slammed into the
Gulf Coast, government and utility officials offered a time
frame for restoring electricity to the New Orleans downtown
business district. They said they hoped to have power turned
on and much of the debris cleaned up by the end of next
About 350,000 to 400,000 homes remained without power in New
Orleans and the surrounding area, compared with one million
just after the hurricane. In adjacent St. Bernard Parish,
which was particularly hard hit, 99 percent of homes and
businesses remained without power.
The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that 49,700
rescues had been performed and that 208,000 people were being
housed in shelters. It said 20,000 active duty military
members, 50,800 National Guard members, 4,000 Coast Guard
members and 8,900 Federal Emergency Management Agency
personnel had responded to the storm.
As floodwaters recede north toward Lake Pontchartrain, water
levels across the city have fallen as much as four feet. The
city's downtown core is mostly dry. On Canal Street, some
hotels prepared to reopen. Businesses sent employees to
inspect their properties.
One of the "casualties" of the disaster was "Brownie,"
Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA). He was removed from his Gulf Coast
duties on Friday and recalled to Washington, but on Monday he
resigned from his post as FEMA's chief.
Mr. Bush, characteristically, did not officially dismiss Mr.
Brown, but he called him back to Washington to run FEMA while
a crisis-tested Coast Guard commander, Vice Adm. Thad W.
Allen, was given oversight of the relief effort in the South.
After Mr. Brown resigned, the White House quickly named a
veteran disaster relief official to head the agency.
President Bush was under a lot of criticism for the response
of FEMA. News reports appeared about Mr. Brown's
"qualifications" for his job: he was a former commissioner of
the International Arabian Horse Association and for 30 years
was a friend of Joe M. Allbaugh, who managed Mr. Bush's 2000
presidential campaign and was the previous FEMA director. Mr.
Bush faced angry accusations that the director's hiring was
nothing more than cronyism.
Many questions were raised about FEMA, once independent but
later incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security.
Critics complained that it focused on terrorism, hurting
preparations for natural disasters, and that it had become
politicized. Mr. Brown is a lawyer who had political
connections but no emergency management experience. That's
also true of Patrick J. Rhode, the chief of staff at FEMA,
who was deputy director of advance operations for the Bush
campaign and the Bush White House.
Scott R. Morris, the deputy chief of staff at FEMA and is now
director of its recovery office on Florida, had worked for
Maverick Media in Austin, Texas, as a media strategist for
the Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney
2000 campaign. And David I. Maurstad was the Republican
lieutenant governor of Nebraska before he became director of
FEMA's regional office in Denver and then a senior official
at the agency's headquarters.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which
represents FEMA employees, wrote to Congress in June 2004,
complaining, "Seasoned staff members are being pushed aside
to make room for inexperienced novices and contractors."
With the new emphasis on terrorism, three quarters of the
$3.35 billion in federal grants for fire and police
departments and other first responders were intended to
address terror threats, instead of an "all-hazards" approach
that could help in any catastrophe.
The New York Times wrote that it did not appear that
the federal government fulfilled the pledge it made after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a
unified, seamless force.
State and federal officials had spent two years working on a
disaster plan to prepare for a massive storm, but it was
incomplete and had failed to deal with two issues that proved
most critical: transporting evacuees and imposing law and
order. Everyone knew that a hurricane was a threat to New
Orleans, but plans were not yet finished.
The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the
deployment of more than 3,000 of its troops to Iraq, was
hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20
vehicles and had to abandon much of its most advanced
Violence raged inside the New Orleans convention center where
thousands were housed after the storm. Police SWAT team
members found themselves plunging into the darkness, guided
by the muzzle flashes of thugs' handguns. State officials
said that 24 people died either inside or just outside the
The relief effort continued to have complications. The
American Red Cross, nearing exhaustion from the largest
domestic disaster relief operation in its history, issued an
urgent appeal for 40,000 new volunteers to relieve those who
have been serving since Hurricane Katrina hit.
Foreign governments and overseas private organizations have
pledged more than $700 million in cash and material
assistance to storm victims. 115 countries and 12
international organizations have pledged aid to the United
States. He said an elderly woman in Lithuania, grateful for
past American assistance to her country, sent her life
savings of 1,000 Euros.
In stark contrast with the lawlessness that took over the
city in the immediate aftermath of the storm, police
officials said Saturday that they had fully restored order in
this sodden city.
"We have complete control over the city at this time," said
Edwin P. Compass III, superintendent of the New Orleans
police. "I think we have had three crimes in the last four
days. This is the safest city in America."
Federal officials announced a massive campaign to erect
temporary homes. They hope to open 30,000 homes every two
weeks, reaching 300,000 within months. This would be a much
larger effort than anything else so far. Last year after four
hurricanes in Florida, 15,000 trailer homes were set up.
The building is intended to bring as many people as possible
back to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama from their
shelters in surrounding states. The use of the homes will be
free, at least initially. FEMA is mapping out new towns that
in some cases will have as many as 25,000 mobile homes,
spread across hundreds of acres. Classrooms, sewage treatment
plants, stores, restaurants and medical centers will be built