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Leader of Storm Recovery Efforts Replaced on Gulf Coast

Correction attached

I’m Doug Johnson with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The Bush administration has named a new leader for the federal recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen will command the operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

He takes the place of Michael Brown, director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday that he has directed Mister Brown "to return to administering FEMA nationally."

Critics of Mister Brown have called for his resignation or dismissal. Reports say he waited until Katrina hit land last week before he requested a large deployment of federal workers to the Gulf Coast.

Louisiana officials have ordered twenty-five thousand body bags to hold remains in case the number of victims is that high. But a New Orleans official said the first major search for bodies in the flooded city found many fewer than expected. He called the number "relatively minor" compared to warnings of ten thousand dead.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Katrina are now in shelters all over the country. This week, Congress approved fifty-two thousand million dollars more in aid for the affected areas. That was in addition to ten and one-half thousand million approved earlier.

The storm has opened up discussion and debate about racial and economic divisions in society. Many of those affected are poor and black. Accusations of racism add fuel to anger over the speed at which help arrived.

President Bush called the early federal efforts unacceptable. But critics say the president himself showed a lack of leadership. For Democrats, the storm hit at a time when his approval ratings were already down because of the war in Iraq. Mister Bush was at his home in Texas when Katrina struck.

The president and Republican leaders in Congress have announced investigations into what went wrong. But minority Democrats want an independent investigation.

President Bush on Friday thanked more than one hundred countries that have offered assistance to the victims of Katrina. White House officials said he will make another visit to the Gulf Coast on Sunday and will stay overnight.

Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the September eleventh terrorist attacks. Before then, FEMA was independent. Now is it part of Homeland Security, a department created after Nine-Eleven.

Michael Brown joined FEMA in February of two thousand one as its top lawyer. The president nominated him as deputy director soon after the attacks, then later as director. The Senate confirmed him both times. His former employer was the International Arabian Horse Association.

Secretary Chertoff says Katrina is the largest natural disaster in American history. But he notes that hurricane season continues. And he says his department also has to be ready for other events, "natural or man-made." But, after Katrina, many critics say the department has to do a better job to balance its responsibilities.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English can be found online at I’m Doug Johnson.


Correction: The Senate did not confirm Michael Brown at FEMA two times, as reported. Senators confirmed him as deputy director in August 2002. His appointment as director would have required confirmation as well, but not at the time the Department of Homeland Security was created.