FEMA: Let them eat brownies

As a FEMA supervisor on the ground warned of impending deaths in New Orleans, Michael Brown's staff saw to his dinner plans.

Published October 20, 2005 7:17PM (EDT)

How bad was FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina?

This bad.

Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director on the scene in New Orleans in the early days of Katrina, told a Senate panel today that FEMA officials in Washington all but ignored his urgent pleas for help. In a series of increasingly dire e-mail messages, Bahamonde told his superiors that conditions were deteriorating rapidly inside the Superdome -- at one point, he warned that oxygen supplies would run out in hours -- yet FEMA continued to direct evacuees to the arena.

On Aug. 31, the Associated Press says, Bahamonde sent Michael Brown an e-mail warning him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets and that "estimates are many will die within hours." Less than three hours later, the AP says, Brown's press secretary sent around an e-mail complaining that not enough time had been scheduled for Brown's dinner in Baton Rouge, La. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," the e-mail said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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