The latest visit, that comes on the heels of the 9/11 anniversary, will acquaint the president with the New Orleans region from the ground rather than from the air.

Earlier on Sunday, the president visited firefighters who have been battling the blazes that persistently erupt across the city, before sleeping on the USS Iwo Jima - the amphibious assault ship is serving as a control centre in the relief efforts.

Bush has also ridden on convoys of military trucks to get a lengthy look at New Orleans' damaged and flooded neighbourhoods.

Local leadership

The US president was also touring hard-hit surrounding parishes by helicopter, touching down to meet with local leaders.

Floodwaters have continued to
recede throughout New Orleans

Army Lieutenant-General Russel Honore, commander of the 17,000 active-duty troops helping with the storm effort, and Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen met Bush when his helicopter landed on Sunday on the Iwo Jima and stuck with him from there on.

It was Bush's first direct meeting with Allen since he became the new federal face of relief efforts - replacing Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who was recalled to Washington on Friday after coming to personify a relief operation widely panned as bumbling.

Critical

Democrats have not been shy about seizing on the discontent with Bush's performance.

"Sadly, the federal government's lack of preparation followed by its inept response had deadly consequences for far too many Americans in Katrina's path," party Chairman Howard Dean said.

Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said it is unfortunate that the White House has undertaken a "full-court press" to deflect blame for the poor early response to the storm away from the Bush administration and onto state and local officials.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan responded: "What we're trying to do is work together with state and local officials to meet the needs of the people in the region."