The governor of Louisiana has accused the federal government of moving too slowly to recover bodies of hurricane victims, and says the state will hire a private contractor to do the work.

Governor Kathleen Blanco Tuesday lashed out at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and said the state would take the lead in recovering bodies in the submerged city of New Orleans. She said she took the action to protect the dignity of those killed by the deadly storm.

Louisiana officials say the death toll from Hurricane Katrina has jumped to 423, up from 279 on Monday, and is expected to rise as floodwaters recede.

At the White House, President Bush said he takes "full responsibility" for what went wrong with the federal response to the disaster.

Mr. Bush's approval rating has hit the lowest point of his presidency, amid widespread criticism of the federal government's response to the disaster.