President Bush said Tuesday he takes responsibility for the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the southern United States last month. Officials are working to find housing for people who survived the storm and are now living in temporary shelters.
A White House spokesman says President Bush will return to Louisiana this week to monitor recovery efforts and plans to address the nation on Thursday evening to discuss the government's response to the natural disaster. Speaking at a White House news conference with the president of Iraq, Mr. Bush said he wants to know what went wrong and went right after Katrina slammed ashore on August 29.
"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," said Mr. Bush.
Meanwhile, the new acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said the government is concentrating on finding housing for tens of thousands of people now staying in shelters.
R. David Paulison was named to the position on Monday, replacing Michael Brown, who resigned after criticism of the government's response. Mr. Paulison said President Bush has promised him the full support of the federal government.
"Right now I'm getting brought up to speed on where we are with the housing issue and some of the other issues out there,” said Mr. Paulison. “I know it's a focus of mine, it's a focus of the president, that we get these people out of the shelters into some type of semi-permanent or permanent housing, so that's what we're going to focus on."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the federal government faces a complicated task in helping people who were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
"The first thing we needed to do was to evacuate people and get them someplace where they could get food, water and medical attention. The next step forward is to look for a more long-term situation and ultimately at the end of the day, we have to reconstitute the communities that have been devastated," said Mr. Chertoff.
Health care workers are screening the hurricane survivors who are being housed in temporary shelters around the country. So far, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta say they have not seen the outbreaks of infectious diseases that some people had feared could occur in crowded shelters.