Operations in New Orleans are said to be moving from “rescue” to “recovery” mode but the first political victim of Hurricane Katrina has fallen.
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, has been recalled to Washington. It comes after media criticism in the US reached fever pitch over the slowness of the agency’s response to the disaster. Brown’s replacement has been announced as Thad Allen, chief of staff of the US Coastguard. The Bush administration hopes to quell the political storm over FEMA’s un-preparedness. Critics claim the organisation was packed with Bush-loyalists with little or no emergency management experience. Brown’s replacement will now focus on moving operations forward from evacuating survivors to beginning the recovery of bodies. However estimates that 10,000 people may have died have been downplayed by New Orleans Police spokesman, Terry Ebbert. “I think there is some encouragement in what we have found in the initial sweeps that some of the catastrophic deaths that some people predicted may not in fact have occurred,” he said. So far the official death toll in the southern states affected is fluctuating around the 300 mark but that is expected to rise dramatically as work continues to drain the water away.