NEW ORLEANS — Ahead of President Bush's trip to the hurricane-ravaged South, Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at federal officials, telling a local radio station “they don’t have a clue what’s going on down here.”
Federal officials expressed sympathy but quickly defended themselves, saying they, too, were overwhelmed by the catastrophe that hit the Gulf Coast region on Monday.
Nagin’s interview Thursday night on WWL radio came as President Bush planned to visit Gulf Coast communities battered by Hurricane Katrina, a visit aimed at alleviating criticism that he engineered a too-little, too-late response.
Bush viewed the damage while flying over the region Wednesday en route to Washington after cutting short his Texas vacation by two days.
“They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn — excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed,” Nagin said.
Nagin said he told Bush in a recent conversation that “we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice ... I have been all around this city and that I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we are outmanned in just about every respect.”
FEMA defends efforts
In an interview Friday on NBC’s “Today,” Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown stood behind the massive federal relief effort that’s under way.
“I understand the mayor’s frustration. ... We have been having a continuous flow of commodities into the Superdome, there were five trucks arriving last night to feed well over 50,000 people.
“We’re also diverting supplies to the convention center which I learned about yesterday and that area. ... This is an absolutely catastrophic disaster,” he said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who like Nagin is a Democrat, was less confrontational than the mayor.
“When the system goes down, this is pretty much what you get,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show.” “We don’t get into the blame game. We just work with what we got.”
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