Thousands of National Guard troops are in New Orleans to bring desperately needed food and supplies to the flood-ravaged city and evacuate tens of thousands of people stranded in worsening sanitary conditions.
Convoys of trucks drove through the floodwaters Friday for the first such aid delivery since Hurricane Katrina struck four days ago.
Many of the victims have been without food, water or medicine for days.
In Washington, before setting off for a tour of the devastated region, President Bush said the emergency response to the disaster was unacceptable. Later he said he was referring specifically to New Orleans, and that the response had been much better in Mississippi and Alabama.
While visiting Alabama, he thanked rescue workers for their efforts. In touring a devastated area in Mississippi he spoke with residents, including a woman who tearfully described her ordeal
But back in Washington Black leaders blasted what they called a slow and inadequate response, saying that poor black citizens had suffered the most.
Black leaders have also appealed to other states to make efforts similar to those in Texas, which has opened the the Astrodome in Houston as a shelter for 12,000 people bused in from New Orleans.
Security remains a concern in New Orleans, where several buildings burned unattended for hours. Firefighters were later seen atop a nearby building struggling to get one blaze under control.