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Katrina Disaster Blog Sept. 9

This is a running list compiled by staffers of the latest developments in the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Sept. 9, 2005

11:38 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) An almost $31 million contract has been approved to repair the Interstate 10 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. Officials say work will begin Monday, and take fewer than 45 days.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers says most of New Orleans could be drained by Oct. 2. Some areas might take longer.

11:16 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) FEMA says it passed out about 4,200 emergency debit cards worth up to $2,000 to evacuees inside Houston's Astrodome today.

A FEMA spokeswoman says agency officials decided to switch to bank deposits because it requires less staff. Questions also arose about eligibility. And some governors and lawmakers raised concerns about the potential for abuse.

10:42 p.m.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — Military and civilian officials say the deployment of National Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana in Iraq hurt the response to Hurricane Katrina.

A National Guard Bureau chief, Lieutenant General Steven Blum, says arguably a day or so of response time was lost. He says that had those thousands of troops been at home, their expertise and capabilities could have been used. To replace them, personnel from Kansas and Minnesota were dispatched.

Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi says a lot of local knowledge was lost because of the deployed troops. He also says the local Guard's best equipment was with them in Iraq.

10:05 p.m.
Watch complete coverage of Hurricane Katrina from the CBS Evening News:

9:12 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A number of New Orleans residents aren't happy with the results of a new poll -- in which a lot of people supported the idea of relocating much of the city. A little more than half of the people surveyed by the AP and Ipsos said vast sections of New Orleans that sit below sea level shouldn't be rebuilt in the same place, but should instead be moved to safer ground.

Displaced New Orleans resident Mary Dawn Pugh asks, where would you move it? She says, "There's water everywhere." Another angry resident says it's "irresponsible" to suggest that the city be abandoned because it's below sea level.

6:21 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's relief agency said Friday it will discontinue its program to distribute debit cards worth up to $2,000 to hurricane victims, two days after hastily announcing the novel plan to provide quick relief.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will scrap the program once officials finish distributing cards this weekend at shelters in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, where many of the evacuees were moved. No cards will be issued to victims in other states.

6:14 p.m.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Al Gore helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans earlier this week.

Gore was acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son. Doctor David Kline operated on Gore's son, Albert, after a life-threatening auto accident in 1989. He was trying to get in touch with Gore. Kline was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

Gore criticized the Bush administration's slow response to Katrina in a speech in San Francisco Friday, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew.

5:49 p.m.
HOUSTON (AP) — Officials from FEMA have been handing out 500 debit cards an hour Friday to hurricane evacuees at the Houston Astrodome complex. Also continuing today is the distribution of debit cards by the Red Cross. It was plagued Thursday by long lines that led to heat exhaustion for some of the refugees.

A FEMA spokeswoman says there are enough cards for the families of the estimated 7,000 people registered at three shelters in and around the Astrodome. Evacuees in other areas who need the cards will start getting them Saturday afternoon.

4:37 p.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — CBS is apologizing for something embarrassing that happened on "The Price Is Right." The grand prize offered during the rerun was a trip to New Orleans. The announcer talked about how the winner would stay in a fancy hotel within walking distance of the French Quarter.

The contestant didn't end up winning the trip, but that didn't make the re-broadcast any less embarrassing. CBS promises that future reruns will be screened to make sure they don't offer more trips to the Gulf coast.

4:22 p.m.
ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Greeted by the blasts of water cannon, the first planeload of 100 Louisiana National Guardsmen returned home Friday from Iraq, leaving behind the carnage of warfare to find their families in their hurricane-ravaged state. As soon as the plane touched down, the troops clapped and yelled, "Yeah!"

2:28 p.m.
(CBS) — A government source says the decision to transfer Brown away from Hurricane Katrina relief management and back to Washington was specifically made by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, though he discussed the action with President Bush, who gave his approval, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

2:15 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday.

He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.

11:58 a.m.
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — The first planeload of 100 weary Louisiana National Guardsmen arrived back in the United States on Friday, returning from the carnage of Iraq on their way to their hurricane-ravaged home state.

The soldiers clambered off the plane to go through U.S. Customs before their charter flight from Kuwait departed again for Alexandria, La., where they face the task of finding scattered families.

11:10 a.m.
(CBS) — Six major networks are set to broadcast a telethon to raise money for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, U2 and the Dixie Chicks are among the celebrities scheduled to take part in Friday's hour-long "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast."

Kanye West, the rapper/producer who earlier blasted Mr. Bush by saying the lagging hurricane response indicated that President Bush doesn't care about black people, is scheduled to perform, but not to speak.

10:58 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, linking hurricane recovery and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks four years ago, declared Friday that the United States was ready to "overcome any challenge."

"America is a strong and resilient nation," Bush said, speaking at the swearing-in for Karen Hughes, the State Department's new undersecretary for public diplomacy a post designed to lift America's image abroad to help win the war on terror. Bush said that more than 100 nations had offered help after the hurricane, and he compared that to "a similar outpouring of support when another tragedy struck our nation" the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

10:24 a.m.
(CBS) — The Washington Post reported that most of the men in FEMA's top leadership positions came to their posts with "virtually no experience in handling disasters." The report scrutinized the experience of five out of the eight men in charge of the agency, "whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

Because veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman have left FEMA since 2003, a "brain drain" of sorts has set in for the agency.

Due to the rapid turnover, three of the five chiefs for natural-disaster FEMA operations are simply "acting" chiefs, the Post reported.

9:48 a.m.
NEW YORK (AP) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina, saying "a lot of failures" occurred at all levels of government. Powell, the highest ranking black official in President Bush's first term, also said he does not believe race was a factor in the slow delivery of relief to the hurricane victims.

9:07 a.m.
NEW YORK (CBS) — Time magazine reporter Carolina A. Miranda told The Early Show's Hannah Storm about the magazine's report on the apparently misleading credentials the government and a prominent legal site lists for FEMA director Mike Brown. Because Brown is already embattled, the Time report threatens to open up a new wave of criticism over whether he should have held the position if he did not have adequate experience running disaster or urban operations.

Brown's bio on a number of sources list him as assistant city manager in Edmond, Okla., but when Time called the city, a representative said Brown's position was an assistant to the city manager, which is "an entry-level intern-type job for somebody interested in learning about government,"


FEMA disputes Time's report, saying in a statement: "Time's misleading online report on FEMA Secretary Michael Brown is based on online information Mr. Brown has never seen." But Miranda told CBS News that the information Time's reporters found online was on, where lawyers or their staff write their own bios. The White House has also sent out press releases with the disputed information, Time reported.

Under scrutiny also is Brown's listing as a professor at a college where it seems he only did undergraduate work.

8:58 a.m.
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — For three days this week, a Durham County judge waived fines for speeding tickets in exchange for money to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. District Court Judge Marcia Morey waived the fines in court Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday if the offenders agreed to write checks to the American Red Cross or other relief agencies. Court fines usually go into the public schools' budget, but Morey said her three-day relief program would not harm the educational system.

"I'm sure Durham would appreciate the same help if we were in the same dire circumstances," she said. "It's not taking away from Durham. It's giving to others."

8:45 a.m.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Everything borrowed, everything new, the old is just gone, but nobody's blue. That's the rewrite of the old wedding rhyme for newly married Marvin and Janet Martin. Just a week ago, they were rescued from the roof of a flooded Louisiana hotel after four days with no food or water. In addition to nearly killing the couple, Hurricane Katrina blew away their September 24th bayou wedding plans.

7:32 a.m.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief said he expected the world body to become more involved in the Katrina relief effort as international aid arrives. Small U.N. teams are already assisting U.S. authorities with expert advice and coordinating international aid.

"All in all we expect the U.N. involvement to grow as we expect there to be a very considerable increase in the number of international relief flights to the United States from many parts of the world," said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

7:13 a.m.
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Add a new danger to the hurricane-hammered Gulf.

Mounds of debris, trash and splintered trees piled high by Katrina have been drying out in the scorching heat and are in danger of catching on fire. National Guard troops and helicopters hunting for survivors and bodies in New Orleans have been detoured to put out fires.

4:20 a.m.
WASHINGTON (CBS) — A published report says five of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's eight top officials have almost no experience in handling disasters. That's according to the Washington Post, which notes the agency's top three leaders were part of either President Bush's 2000 election campaign or the White House advance operation.

12:44 a.m.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A Mexican Army convoy bringing aid to hurricane evacuees received a boisterous greeting Thursday in San Antonio, where nearly half the city's population has a Mexican heritage.

"Bienvenidos" ["Welcome"] signs, cheers, honking horns and Mexican flags welcomed the soldiers, who set up mobile kitchens to feed some 21,000 people a day. "It makes me feel good that my heritage is helping out the United States," said John Ortega, a volunteer firefighter from Texas who turned out for the welcome rally. "This is historic and I'm glad to see this happen."

"We know what it is like to be on the other side of this," said Mexican Consul Daniel Hernandez Joseph, referring to U.S. aid during the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. "We are saying thank you by responding in kind." The Mexican government plans another aid convoy and has also sent a ship to Mississippi with rescue vehicles and helicopters.

12:35 a.m.
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (CBS) — Oil company workers evacuated from Gulf Coast homes because of Katrina are about to get some help from their boss. Chevron, which has an oil refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., will be providing temporary employee housing for about 1,500 Chevron employees and family members.

12:05 a.m.
WASHINGTON (CBS) — North Carolina Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of New Orleans will be in Baton Rouge and Houston Friday, on a fact-finding trip in the aftermath of Katrina. They'll visit a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge and the Astrodome in Houston, where they plan to talk to survivors and be briefed by officials on efforts to help them.

Read previous Katrina Disaster Blogs: Sept. 8, Sept. 7, Sept. 6, Sept. 5, Sept. 4, Sept. 3, Sept. 2, Sept. 1, Aug. 31

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