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FEMA Chief Brown Resigns

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown announced his resignation Monday amid criticism of his handling of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

The White House then picked a top FEMA official with three decades of firefighting experience as his replacement. R. David Paulison, head of FEMA's emergency preparedness force, will lead the beleaguered agency, according to two senior administration sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

Brown said he was resigning "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president."

"The focus has got to be on FEMA, what the people are trying to do down there," Brown said.

His decision was not a surprise. Brown was abruptly recalled to Washington on Friday, a clear vote of no confidence from his superiors at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, 45 bodies were found at a flooded-out hospital, a state health official said, amid otherwise encouraging signs large and small that New Orleans is starting to climb back.

Also, CBS News has learned from police that a serious breech has occurred at Alysian Fields Road and Lake Shore Drive with "significant" water coming in where sandbags were stacked.

The bodies were located Sunday at Memorial Medical Center, said Bob Johannesen, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Hospitals. Johannesen said the bodies were those of patients, but he had no other information.

The 317-bed hospital, owned by TenetHealthcare Corp., was surrounded by floodwaters in the aftermath of the hurricane and was evacuated.

The Louisiana death toll rose to 279, up from 197 on Sunday, Johannesen said.

More than half of southeastern Louisiana's water treatment plants were up and running again Monday, and business owners were issued passes into the city to retrieve vital records or equipment as New Orleans continued to stir back to life.

Also Monday, President Bush got his first up-close look at the destruction in New Orleans, taking a tour that took him through several flooded neighborhoods. Occasionally, he had to duck to avoid low-hanging electrical wires and branches.

Traffic was heavy on the only major highway into the city that was still open, and vehicles were backed up for about two miles at a National Guard checkpoint across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

Among the businessmen allowed back was Terry Cockerham, owner of Service Glass, which installs windows at businesses downtown. He has been working out of his house because his business was destroyed by looters and flooding.

"This is about the most work I've ever had," he said. "We'll work seven days a week until we get this job finished. I don't want to get rich. I just want to get everything back right."

There were also signs of life at businesses elsewhere in the city.

In the French Quarter, Nick Ditta was at Mango Mango, the bar he manages on Bourbon Street, searching for time cards. "It's a mess man. There is no doubt about it," Ditta said. "But our people are going to get paid. That's all I'm worried about."

CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that some residents south of the city were being allowed to return to what's left of their homes.

"I don't want to cry," said Alefitha Black of Plaquemines Parish. "I cried so much in Tennessee" – where she and her family evacuated. "I'm tired. We've just been praying so much to keep the faith. That's all you can do."

With more pumps coming on line, more water is being drained from the city. Plaquemines Parish is expected to be dry by October 18 – 40 days earlier than projected.

During his visit to New Orleans, the president denied there was any racial component to the way the government responded to the disaster, disputing assertions that Washington was sluggish because so many of the victims were poor and black.

"The storm didn't discriminate and neither will the recovery effort," Mr. Bush said. He also rejected suggestions that the nation's military was stretched too thinly with the war in Iraq to deal with the Gulf Coast devastation.

Though 50 percent of New Orleans remained flooded — down from 80 percent during the darkest days — and teams continued to collect hundreds, perhaps thousands, of corpses, there were clear signs of recovery: Over the weekend, trash collection resumed, and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport reopened for cargo traffic. It planned to open to limited passenger service starting Tuesday.

A plane carrying equipment to rebuild New Orleans' mobile phone networks took off from Sweden on Monday after waiting more than a week for a go-ahead from the United States. The shipment included network equipment donated by the Swedish cell phone giant LM Ericsson.

State officials said Monday that 16 of southeast Louisiana's 25 major wastewater treatment plants were up and running again.

In the effort to drain the flooded area, 41 of 174 permanent pumps were in operation, and officials expected an increase in temporary pumps within 24 hours.

As of late Sunday, water in many parts of the metropolitan area was going down at least a foot a day, the Army Corps of Engineers said. Once the streets are dry, crews can begin removing debris, checking buildings and other structures for soundness, and restoring utilities.

Military cargo airplanes were set to begin spraying the area on Monday to kill flies and mosquitoes. The standing water from Katrina is expected to worsen Louisiana's already considerable mosquito problem. Before the storm hit, the state had logged 78 cases of mosquito-borne West Nile virus and four deaths from the disease this year.

Insurance experts doubled to at least $40 billion their estimate of insured losses caused by Katrina — a figure that would make it the world's costliest hurricane ever. Risk Management Solutions Inc. of Newark, Calif., put the total economic damage at more than $125 billion.

In the French Quarter, burnt-orange rubble from terra-cotta roof tiles sat in neat piles for collection along the curb. Bourbon Street was cleaner than it ever is during Mardi Gras. And Donald Jones, a 57-year-old lifelong resident, said he was no longer armed when walking his street.

"The first five days I never went out of my house without my gun. Now I don't carry it," Jones said over the weekend. "The only people I meet is military."

Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, commander of active-duty troops engaged in hurricane relief, reiterated Sunday the number of dead would be "a heck of a lot lower" than initial projections of perhaps 10,000.

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