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Home >> World
UPDATED: 13:03, September 07, 2005
Bush, Congress pledge investigations
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US President George W. Bush and Congress have pledged separate investigations into the widely criticized federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

After meeting at the White House with his Cabinet on storm recovery efforts on Tuesday, Bush said bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people.

Bush called congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting, their first since the hurricane spread death and destruction on a fearsome scope along the Gulf Coast and left much of New Orleans under several feet of floodwaters.

But the president said now is not the time to point fingers and he did not respond to calls for a commission to investigate the response.

He also objected to references to displaced Americans as "refugees."

Congress formally returned from a five-week summer break during the day, signalling that the hurricane would take top billing on the agenda in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Senator Susan Collins announced at the Capitol that the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee would hold hearings, saying it is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years.

Majority Leader Bill Frist also said the response needs to be first and foremost.

Congress approved $10.5 billion as an initial down payment for hurricane relief last week, and Senate Democrats were consulting among themselves in advance of the White House meeting.

One official said it was possible Democrats would request as much as $50 billion as a next installment.

Apart from the investigation announced by Collins and Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Senate Energy Committee arranged hearings on gasoline prices.

The hurricane disrupted oil production and distribution in the Gulf of Mexico, and gasoline prices that had already been rising spiked sharply last week in some areas of the country.

In another development, the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division said that its paratroopers plan to use small boats, including inflatable Zodiac craft, to launch a new search-and-rescue effort in flooded areas of central New Orleans.

In a telephone interview from his operations center at New Orleans International Airport, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said his soldiers' top priority is finding, recovering and evacuating people who want to get out of the flooded city.

Caldwell, who arrived in New Orleans on Saturday night to what he described as "an absolutely chaotic situation" at the international airport there, said conditions are improving, including a gradual return of electricity.

Source: CRI/AP

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