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Criticism of Government Response To Katrina Pours In


More than one week after Hurricane Katrina roared through New Orleans, boats remain the only way to navigate some city streets and stranded survivors still wait to be rescued.

As floodwaters are pumped out, criticism of the federal government has poured in. Responding to complaints that food, water and security arrived too late, U.S. President George W. Bush said that he would lead an investigation into what happened. "We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there's a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack or another major storm. And so I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong."

A flashpoint for criticism -- conditions at the New Orleans Superdome, a designated shelter.

Thousands took refuge at the dome and nearby convention center, only to find there was no food, water, medicine or security. People literally died on the street waiting for help.

The U.S. Senate announced its own, separate investigation of the hurricane response, starting with committee hearings next week.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut asked, "How could this have happened in America?"

Senator Lieberman says local government failures began even before the storm arrived. "You can call for a mandatory evacuation, but if thousands of people don't have the means to evacuate, then government has to be able to provide them with that, and clearly the government didn't."

Even members of President Bush's Republican Party have serious questions, considering the billions of dollars the U.S. has devoted to emergency preparedness since 9/11.

As Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine points out, "If our system did such a poor job when there was no enemy, how would the federal, state and local governments have coped with a terrorist attack that provided no advance warning? The most vocal critics want this man to resign."

Michael Brown heads the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but has limited previous experience in disaster management.

Senator Collins believes debates on the leadership of FEMA are expected. "I'm sure we'll also hear varying views about whether the head of FEMA should have a specific background in emergency management."

Some Americans are speaking out about what is obvious in pictures; the majority of hurricane victims are poor and black. Senator Lieberman says the pictures are telling, "The terrible events of last week revealed problems in our society that we don't often see as painfully, which is that there is another America; there's another America that is left behind."

The White House has rejected any suggestion that poor black Americans were simply abandoned during the storm.

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