News| Hurricane Katrina | Following Katrina, FEMA Turned Down Help From Feds

News| Hurricane Katrina | Following Katrina, FEMA Turned Down Help From Feds

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Jan. 30, 2006 – The Bush administration will have a harder time trying to convince Black folks that Kanye West got it wrong following the latest news about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Turns out that the U.S. Department of Interior had hundreds of trucks, boats and planes, and 4,400 law enforcement officers that could have lent a hand to FEMA, but the agency passed on the help.

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Interior Department officials say the officers were "trained in search and rescue, emergency medical services and evacuation, and many of them were in the Gulf Coast area," according documents released Monday by the Interior Department.

In fact, FEMA didn't call to take Interior up on the offer until late September, about a month -- and many lives -- later, according to the documents, obtained by The Washington Post and CNN.

Following the government's slow response to rescuing hurricane survivors, Rapper Kanye West, during a nationally televised program said, "President Bush doesn't care about Black people."

Many resources not used

''The department possesses significant resources that could have improved initial and ongoing response; many of these resources were not effectively incorporated into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Department Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett wrote in a questionnaire from Senate investigators.

She noted that after FEMA had asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help with search-and-rescue efforts in New Orleans, it never got assignments but that it went ahead anyway, rescuing more then 4,000 people in the first week after Katrina.

Scarlett said that other resources that they offered that went unused included flat-bottom boats for shallow-water rescues.

''Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant in the post-Katrina environment," Scarlett wrote.

But that’s not all.

Rescue mission called off

An internal FEMA e-mail given to Senate investigators revealed that the agency called off its search-and-rescue operations in Louisiana three days after the storm because of security issues, The Washington Post reported.

The documents, which show gaps in FEMA's response, also detail breakdowns in carrying out the National Response Plan, which was issued a year ago to coordinate reaction to disasters. 

"It is indeed possible that there was additional suffering and maybe even loss of life that might not have occurred if these assets had been deployed," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of a Senate committee with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said he's not going against what the documents say, but Hurricane Katrina "pushed our capabilities and resources to the limit – and then some."

Those shortcomings in the federal government's response are expected to be explored this week at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.

What do you think was behind FEMA's rejection of the help from the Interior Department? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.

Written by BET-Staff

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