White House report cites Katrina flaws

A White House report has concluded that inexperienced disaster response managers and a lack of planning, discipline and leadership contributed to vast US government failures during Hurricane Katrina.

    Hundreds of thousands were made homeless by Katrina

    The 228-page report by Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House Homeland Security adviser, urges changes in 11 key areas, mainly in disaster relief coordination among federal agencies, before the next hurricane season begins on 1 June.

    The White House study on Thursday took a softer approach than a scathing House report issued last week, focusing on proposals to fix problems without singling out any individuals for blame.

    George Bush, the US president, said on Thursday, at the end of a Cabinet meeting where the report was released, that he "wasn't satisfied with the federal response,"

    "We will learn from the lessons of the past to better protect the American people," Bush said.

    Failures

    Townsend, speaking to reporters later, said the White House fell short in cutting through bureaucratic red tape and quickly settling disputes among response agencies.

    Her review also cites failures at a half-dozen federal agencies, singling out the Homeland Security Department for lacking fast communication with emergency responders and the public, and an inadequate system for stockpiling supplies before a disaster hits.

    "We have already begun to take action to address many of the issues raised in the report, particularly those areas we need to improve before the start of the 2006 hurricane season"

    Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary

    "In the end, we must do a much better job at preparation, at planning, and improve our response," Townsend said.

    Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary, commended the White House's 125 recommendations, which he said were aided by his department.

    "We have already begun to take action to address many of the issues raised in the report, particularly those areas we need to improve before the start of the 2006 hurricane season," Chertoff said in a statement.

    He called the report consistent with internal changes already underway at Homeland Security.

    The White House review comes a week after the special Republican-dominated House Committee investigating the slow response found fault at every level of government, including the president and Chertoff.

    More than 1300 residents along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico died after Katrina hit, and hundreds of thousands more were forced from their destroyed homes.

    SOURCE: AFP


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