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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
US emergency aid chief sidelined
Shattered bridge between New Orleans and Slidell
The hurricane effectively made a whole US city uninhabitable
The top US emergencies official has been removed from his role managing the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is being sent back to Washington from Louisiana where he has been overseeing aid work.

Mr Brown has been criticised over the slow pace of the rescue effort.

Officials in New Orleans said they were now concentrating on recovering bodies, and initial estimates of about 10,000 deaths were exaggerated.

"Some of the catastrophic deaths that some people predicted may not have occurred," said Terry Ebbert, homeland security chief of New Orleans.

"Numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the dire projections of 10,000," Mr Ebbert said.

In the city itself, the streets are being swept, power lines repaired and supplies brought in.

But bodies are still strewn in flood waters, along the roads and in houses, says the BBC's Daniela Relph.

The drainage of New Orleans has reduced water levels considerably, but the army estimates it could take 80 days to complete the task.

'Inaccuracies and lies'

Mr Brown is being replaced by Coast Guard Vice-Admiral Thad W Allen who has been overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

"I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering Fema nationally," Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said announcing the move.

Michael Brown in New Orleans on 4 September
My only concern is that the head of Fema will be used as a scapegoat
William Connors
Wisconsin, USA

Mr Chertoff said he appreciated the work done by the Fema director - amid allegations that Mr Brown had exaggerated his previous experience in emergency management.

As news broke of his transfer back to Washington, Michael Brown told AP news agency he was keen to return there to "correct all the inaccuracies and lies that are being said".

The "story", he said, was not his own career but "the worst disaster in US history".

The BBC's Washington correspondent, Justin Webb, says that questions over Mr Brown's eligibility for his post have intensified political pressure on the White House.

President George W Bush is to begin a third visit to the disaster zone on Sunday, with stops in both Mississippi and Louisiana, a spokesman said.

Political figures in both the Republican and Democratic parties have accused the authorities of responding slowly.

Refrigerated lorries arrive to collect the dead

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