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Katrina Response A 'Systemic Failure': Former US Emergency Response Chief

Former head of FEMA, Michael Brown.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Aug 30, 2006
Michael Brown, former head of the agency in charge of responding to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina a year ago, said on Tuesday there was a "systemic failure" at the local, state and federal levels of government in the aftermath of the disaster.

Speaking to the BBC, Brown also said his biggest regret was not clearly articulating the extent of the damage left by the hurricane to the American public, which he said "would have forced the United States government to react quicker than it did."

"Clearly it was a systemic failure at the local level, the state level, and at the federal level," he told the broadcaster.

Brown, who resigned as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the aftermath of the hurricane, said the agency was having "morale problems" even before the storm struck the southeast United States.

"We were having morale problems after we went into the Department of Homeland Security because FEMA was once a thriving, independent agency," he said.

"I did everything I could to keep its resources and fight for those resources, but Homeland Security continued to eat away bits and chunks of our budget and our personnel."

Responding to a question about the apparent delays in the reconstruction of New Orleans and the cities and towns left in rubble because of the storm, Brown said: "It just seems to me that for some odd reason, its just taking longer and longer in New Orleans and Louisiana than it should."

US President George W. Bush on Tuesday took "full responsibility" for Washington's botched response to the disaster, promised "we're addressing what went wrong" and predicted that this festive city would someday be "louder, brasher and better."

Katrina left about 1,500 people dead, and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes, shocking the world. The violent storm surge burst levees and rushing floodwaters swallowed 80 percent of the city, reaching depths of six meters (20 feet) in some areas. The bulk of the storm's deaths were in those flooded neighborhoods.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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