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Bush Takes Responsibility For Inadequate Response To Katrina Disaster


U.S. President George W. Bush says he will assume "full responsibility" for federal government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, the relief work continues.

At a joint news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, President Bush was asked about the government's ability to respond to disasters. He responded "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And, to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Mr. Bush also expressed concern about the United States' preparedness for future disasters. "Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack -- or another severe storm? That's a very important question and it's in the national interest that we find out exactly what went on so that we can better respond."

At the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters, or FEMA, in Washington, D.C., FEMA's new acting director, R. David Paulison, said the emphasis now is on finding housing for evacuees. "It's a focus of mine, it's a focus of the president, that we get these people out of the shelters and into some type of semi-permanent, or permanent housing."

In New Orleans, clean-up efforts continue. Some of the city's businesses, like the Hotel Chateau in the French Quarter, are nearly ready to reopen. Hotel Chateau's Assistant Manager Jim Hannington says,"We're ready to go. We want to help, we want to open up and get life back to normal."

National Guard troops continue patrolling the streets. But rather than pushing residents to leave, they are instead offering assistance.

The Port of New Orleans is restarting operations. Port President Gary LaGrange believes operations will be back up in the near future. "We think that in about a month about now, we'll be back at roughly 30 to 35 percent."

Mr. LaGrange estimates the port will be fully operable within six months. More than 60 percent of U.S. farm exports pass through the Port of New Orleans on the way to world markets.

Another sign of progress -- New Orleans' international airport is also open for business. Only cargo traffic is permitted in, but airport officials plans on opening passenger traffic soon.

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