US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said the relief effort on the Gulf coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina is making "significant progress".
Mr Cheney is touring the worst-affected areas to review whether enough is being done to tackle the disaster.
The US government has come under continuing criticism for what is being seen as a slow response to the crisis.
Mr Cheney's visit comes as 25,000 body bags are sent to New Orleans and rescuers begin recovering victims.
Thousands are feared dead in the city though the official death toll so far in Louisiana stands at 83.
KATRINA'S CONFIRMED DEAD
Mississippi - 196
Louisiana - 83
Florida - 11
Alabama - 2
Georgia - 2
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered the forced evacuation of the city, which used to have a population of 450,000.
With bodies still being sighted in the floodwater, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said there would be a "very ugly situation" when it receded.
"This is a massive catastrophe, one that this nation has never seen the likes of," he said.
Mr Cheney is on a tour which will take him to Mississippi, New Orleans and the Louisiana state capital Baton Rouge.
KATRINA'S FOREIGN MISSING
UK: 96 missing
Mexico: 90 missing, three dead
France: several dozen "untraced"
Poland: 22 missing
Canada: 9 missing
Spain: 6 untraced
Italy: at least 2 families out of contact
South Africa: 3 out of contact
New Zealand: 2 missing
Netherlands: 1 person out of contact
Australia: 1 missing
source: AFP news agency
He met officials in and around the largely flattened coastal town of Biloxi, Mississippi.
The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says his brief is to bang heads together and make sure that the things that went wrong in the early days of the relief effort are sorted out.
First Lady Laura Bush and Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales are also visiting the area.
Opinion polls suggest Americans are divided along political party lines in their judgement of Mr Bush's performance.
Fuel and sewage
Police and soldiers have been going from house to house to encourage those still in the stricken city to leave.
The BBC's Daniela Relph in New Orleans says police do not want to drag people out - but warn that they are prepared to do so in the face of a growing public health risk.
As water is pumped out of New Orleans, the diminishing flood reveals dead bodies, raw sewage, fuel and rusting vehicles.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says the floodwaters contain unsafe levels of E.coli and other bacteria as well as high levels of lead.
Congress is considering a request from President Bush for $51.8bn to fund relief efforts, on top of $10bn already granted.
Mexico has sent a convoy of troops to help the recovery effort - the first time its troops have entered US territory for more than 150 years.