BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK
Reporters' log: Katrina's aftermath
Now that the immediate needs of hurricane survivors have been met, relief efforts are turning to providing longer-term care and support.

Meanwhile, Washington goes back to work after Labour Day with calls for wide-ranging inquiries into what went wrong following Hurricane Katrina.

BBC correspondents report on the latest developments.

Tuesday 6 September

Oliver Conway, Washington D.C., 2315GMT

The Bush administration is under pressure as never before over its handling of Hurricane Katrina. The president has admitted the initial response was not good enough and is keen to show the government is now doing everything it can. After meeting his cabinet, Mr Bush said he would lead an investigation into the failings of the recovery effort and that it was important for everyone to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe.

But he did not say when his enquiry would start. Before getting involved in the blame game, Mr Bush said, he wanted to focus on saving lives and to that end, he's sending his vice-president, Dick Cheney, to the region, to make sure nothing is getting in the way.

So far, criticism has been levelled at local, state and national leaders. But it's FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has attracted the most condemnation and senior Democrats like Nancy Palosi are calling for action. She said there were two disasters, a natural disaster and a second disaster, the man-made mistakes are following Katrina.

James Coomarasamy, New Orleans, 2044GMT

At the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, a steady stream of military helicopters is still arriving. I counted six in less than five minutes.

On board, groups of men and women who'd been plucked from their homes more than eight days after Hurricane Katrina struck. They looked tired, bewildered and in the case of the elderly, in need of medical care.

But some of them at least are in good spirits, cracking jokes and thanking the Lord for sparing them.

But with some people still insisting that they will stay in their waterlogged homes, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has renewed his call for people to leave this city, warning that the threat of disease is growing by the day.

David Willis, Biloxi, 1721GMT

In Biloxi simply finding your house is a challenge and for those who do there is little to salvage. Home for Jennifer Byrne is now living on a mattress on a neighbours porch. Her house survived the hurricane but was so badly flooded that it is uninhabitable. The chances of disease here now are high.

At a makeshift triage unit they staff are worried as well, this part of the Gulf coast Dr John McKee told me it was like practicing medicine in a third world country.

Justin Webb, Washington D.C., 1718GMT

If President Bush takes the blame for the failures in the wake of the hurricane, in the long term he is finished and he will be a complete lame duck president for the rest of this term.

It is vital for him for the blame to lie elsewhere. He needs this inquiry to point the finger at other people. There is a big, big element of getting your retaliation in first in this.

The American public however, through early results of opinion polls, suggest half think he has done a reasonable job and half think he has done a bad job. There is room for the White House to make their case and convince the American public it was not their fault.

Michael Buchanan, Houston, 1710GMT

Now that their most basic needs have been met, the survivors of Hurricane Katrina are looking to get on with rebuilding their lives.

Low cost housing projects, including creating trailer parks and tented villages are planned for several states and being complemented by individual Americans opening up their homes to the evacuees.

James Coomarasamy, New Orleans, 1705GMT
With the water now slowly being drained from this city, the authorities here are preparing for a clearer and probably bleaker picture of the true human cost of Hurricane Katrina.

All week long, bodies have been recovered from New Orleans is flooded streets, some taken away to be identified others tied to lamp posts to stop them floating away. The city's mayor, Ray Nagin, was today asked whether the estimate of 10,000 deaths in New Orleans alone would prove to be accurate.

But, for the rescue workers still out on the water looking for survivors, it is too early to reflect. Their increasingly desperate search continues.

Jonathan Beale, Washington, 1702GMT

President Bush has acknowledged mistakes have been made but so far he's not taking the blame. Flanked by his cabinet on Tuesday morning he said that his administration was still focused on saving lives, not on pointing fingers.

Nevertheless he's accepted the growing clamour for an investigation into what went wrong and the clear indication that this would not just be focused on the role of federal government.

James Coomarasamy, New Orleans, 1618GMT

I'm standing outside the Ochsner hospital in New Orleans, it is the only hospital which has been operating throughout this crisis. It has been coping, there's some damage to the roof, some stagnant water around but otherwise it is in pretty good condition..

An hour or so ago they opened a mobile clinic and people have come from up to 100 miles around to get vital medicines. This included Liliane San Martino who has had a kidney transplant and travelled over 120 miles to get new supplies. She has been without them for several days.

Dr Joe Garvisco, head of emergency dept here told me about what types of injuries they have had to deal with during the last week. He said there were elderly people who were dehydrated and in need of their own types of medicine. Now they are seeing patients with storm related injuries, broken bones and the like and also some with injuries sustained during rescue.

Jonathan Beale, Washington DC, 1426GMT

President Bush is trying desperately to improve the situation on the ground and also repair some of the damage to his own reputation.

The post mortem has already begun. Senate committees will hold investigations into what happened and there's that call from Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary Clinton for this wider public inquiry - like the one held for the 11 September attacks.

I think the President is under pressure here but it's time now to show he's in control and he's putting all his political energy into resolving this crisis.

Jon Sopel, New Orleans, 1402GMT

Teams of army engineers are here now pumping out the water. The influx of troops has stopped here now. There are 60,000 here now, still looking for survivors but also dealing with the grim task of recovering bodies.

Jon Sopel, New Orleans, 1120GMT

New Orleans has become a surreal place for the people left here.

If you were writing the script of a disaster movie you might find it exaggerated to have army personnel carriers fresh from Iraq, still with Arabic writing on the back of them, meeting Texan Rangers on horseback with their Stetsons on all on the same street.

But that is the reality of life here.

Last night we witnessed the soldiers going out on patrol with night vision goggles because of course there's no electricity anywhere in New Orleans apart from at the police headquarters where there are massive generators installed.

Everyone is thinking "What happens next?". There are some 60,000 state troopers, soldiers and engineers undertaking the mass of work needed to be done here.

But it's going to be counted in months, not weeks, which is a hard reality for the citizens who just want their lives back to normal.

Bill Turnbull, New Orleans, 0810GMT

The Republicans and Democrats of those parties will be meeting with the President to discuss where they go from here in what is likely to be a more constructive atmosphere possibly than we've heard over the past few days.

There has been a bit of criticism, there has been a bit of recrimination about the response to the emergency not just by the President. Former President Bill Clinton said yesterday there should be a full inquiry and most people believe there has been a failure of government.

Bill Turnbull, New Orleans, 0600GMT

We're at the water's edge here in downtown New Orleans and I have to tell in spite of the fact that the levees have been repaired, there is one pump churning water back into Lake Pontchartrain. This tide level if you like, just hasn't moved over the past 24 hours.

Over the past day though, three American presidents have been in the region, George W. Bush and his father and Bill Clinton and he's the one who's been making the news by calling for a major inquiry into what's taken place over the past week.

He said it's widely believed that there has been a failure of government and all levels of government in dealing adequately with this disaster and lessons need to be learned.

Michael Buchanan, Houston, 0500GMT

Officials in Texas are to begin moving some of the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina out of the Houston Astrodome and onto cruise ships.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has chartered three boats for up to six months. Two will be docked in Texas, while a third will go to Alabama.

Between them, they can accommodate about 7,000 people and priority will be given to the elderly and those with special health problems.

A Fema spokesman said, however, that the evacuees would have none of the luxuries usually associated with cruise ships, saying the agency would only pay for people to have a room and something to eat.

It marks a change of emphasis for relief agencies. Having taken care of evacuees' immediate needs, they are now focusing on providing more longer-term care.

As well as ships, they are considering moving people into specially-created trailer parks and tented villages.

Justin Webb, Washington, 0300GMT

After the Labour Day holiday on Monday, Washington will go back to work with all eyes on Katrina-related business.

Two Senate committees will begin inquests shortly into what went wrong after Katrina.

But Senator Hillary Clinton, who is presumed by most to be the Democrats' likeliest presidential candidate in 2008, is leading calls for a much wider-ranging public commission of inquiry.

Among the extraordinary allegations being made by local officials in New Orleans, is a claim that the Washington-based Federal Emergency Management Agency turned away water and diesel fuel during the height of the crisis because various bureaucratic hurdles had not been jumped.

Shortly after completing a round of inquiries and reforms in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001, Americans find themselves starting the whole process again.

James Coomarasamy, New Orleans, 0300GMT

The huge repair operation is showing signs of progress. The broken 17th Street canal levee, the cause of so much of the flooding, has now been mended and engineers are beginning to pump water from the canal to reduce its unusually high level.

It is the beginning of the effort to drain a city where large areas are still submerged under several metres of water.

On the outskirts of New Orleans, where residents have been returning to view the damage to their homes, the first regular clinic is being opened, so evacuees who have been without essential medicines for more than a week can renew their prescriptions.

But the bigger picture remains bleak. The pumping operation could last for several weeks and time is running out for the search and rescue efforts. With each day, the chances of anyone surviving in the heat, without supplies, grows smaller.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific