Amid growing criticism on the government's response to the hurricane disaster, the Bush administration named on Friday a new official to lead the front-line recovery efforts.
US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown will no longer take charge of ground recovery operations, and he will be replaced by Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard Thad Allen.
Brown has been heavily criticized recently for the government's delayed response to the unprecedented hurricane disaster.
Some US media reports said Brown and other top FEMA officials have little disaster experience and he has overstated his qualifications on the agency's web site.
Therefore, the latest decision was seen by some Americans as an initial step toward his resignation from FEMA.
However, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said shortly after the announcement that Brown has not resigned from FEMA, and neither did US President George W. Bush ever ask him to do so.
Chertoff also praised Brown for doing "everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," and suggested the change of guard came as the relief efforts entered a new phase.
He said Brown will be back in Washington to oversee the government's response to other potential disasters.
In related developments, a federal official said Friday that initial surveys of New Orleans, Louisiana, indicated the death toll from Katrina may not be as catastrophic as the initial forecast of some 10,000.
Local authorities said the city is now "fully secure" and they hope to restore power to the city's central business district within a week.
Meanwhile, estimates of the damage caused by the hurricane disaster rose to a new high of 125 billion US dollars.