New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin yesterday said President Bush “made things happen” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but offered no praise for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who remains in control of the National Guard and refuses to order a mandatory evacuation of the devastated city.
Mr. Bush has been criticized by Democrats for the federal government’s response to the storm, but the Democratic mayor — whose own actions are now under scrutiny — suggested major mistakes were made on the state level.
“I think [Mr. Bush] was probably getting advice from some of his key advisers or some low-level folk that had been on the ground that this was serious, but not as serious as it ended up being,” Mr. Nagin said.
“My interactions with the president, at any time I talked with him and gave him what the real deal was and gave him the truth, he acted and he made things happen,” Mr. Nagin told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
On Friday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D. Brown was relieved of duty overseeing the continuing rescue and recovery effort, and replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen.
There was an “incredible breakdown of resources” after the devastating flood that left tens of thousands stranded in the Big Easy, Mr. Nagin said.
At a staging area outside New Orleans, Mr. Nagin said he was stunned to see undelivered food supplies and generators and floodlights he had begged be delivered to shelters where thousands of residents were running out of food and threatened nightly by thugs. The state refused to allow the Red Cross or Salvation Army to deliver supplies because state officials wanted residents to evacuate the city, not be resupplied.
“I did everything possible to save lives,” said Mr. Nagin, who said city officials could have done more to help evacuate more than 100,000 stranded residents.
Asked why 550 city buses and hundreds of other school buses were not used, Mr. Nagin said there was no one willing to drive the buses. “We barely found enough drivers to move people to the Superdome,” Mr. Nagin said.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, defended local and state officials’ evacuation efforts during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I’m 50 years old,” she said. “I’ve never seen one better.”
However, 100,000 victims were “left in the city because this federal government won’t support cities to evacuate people, whether it’s from earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes, and that’s the truth,” Mrs. Landrieu said.
“Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane,” she said.
Col. Jeff Smith, of Louisiana’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, complained that temporary housing has not been sent by FEMA. “We feel like there needs to be trailers rolling and things happening that are not happening as quickly as they should at this point,” Col. Smith told reporters yesterday.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.