New Orleans mayor lashes out at feds
Nagin: 'They are spinning and people are dying'
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- As his city skidded deeper into chaos, New Orleans' embattled mayor accused federal officials of dragging their feet while people are dying in deplorable conditions.
Mayor Ray Nagin's voice cracked with anger and anguish Thursday night in an interview with New Orleans radio station WWL-AM. (Hear the mayor tell feds to 'get off their asses' -- 12:09.)
"We're getting reports and calls that [are] breaking my heart from people saying, 'I've been in my attic. I can't take it anymore. The water is up to my neck. I don't think I can hold out.' And that's happening as we speak." (Transcript of radio interview with Nagin)
Nagin said the time has long passed for federal authorities to act on their promises.
"You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on man," he said.
"I need reinforcements," he pleaded. "I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. This is a national disaster. (Hear Nagin's angry demand for more troops -- 1:00)
"I've talked directly with the president," he said. "I've talked to the head of the homeland security. I've talked to everybody under the sun."
After scheduled visits to devastated areas in Alabama and Mississippi, President Bush was expected to fly over the hurricane-ravaged city on Friday.
As he left the White House, Bush said, "The results are not acceptable. I'm headed down there right now."
He said he was "looking forward" to thanking people involved in disaster-relief efforts and assuring victims that short-term and long-term help is on the way.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that he thinks the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies have done a "magnificent job" under difficult circumstances, citing their "courage" and "ingenuity."
Insisting that aid is coming as fast as possible, Chertoff said, "You can't fly helicopters in a hurricane. You can't drive trucks in a hurricane."
FEMA Director Michael Brown told CNN on Friday, "My heart breaks. What we're doing, we're ramping up." (See video of CNN asking why FEMA is clueless about conditions -- 2:11 )
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she hoped the amount of needed aid would begin arriving Friday.
"I'm not going to stand here and play the blame game," Blanco said. "We have a problem. Let's get to the problem."
The tempers of those waiting for food, water and relief from relentless heat continued to boil Friday as they waited for help to arrive, some in shocking conditions that were only getting worse. At least one large explosion rocked the city early Friday.
In the radio interview, Nagin's frustration was palpable.
"I've been out there man. I flew in these helicopters, been in the crowds talking to people crying, don't know where their relatives are. I've done it all man, and I'll tell you man, I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming, that is coming. And my answer to that today is BS, where is the beef? Because there is no beef in this city. "
Nagin said, "Get every Greyhound bus in the country and get them moving."
Nagin called for a moratorium on press conferences "until the resources are in this city."
"They're feeding the people a line of bull, and they are spinning and people are dying," he said.
"I don't know whether it's the governor's problem, or it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get ... on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now," Nagin said.
"They thinking small, man, and this is a major, major deal," he said.
"Get off your asses and let's do something."
The mayor said except for a few "knuckleheads," the looting is the result of desperate people just trying to find food and water to survive.
Nagin blamed the outbreak of crime and violence on drug addicts who are cut off from their drug supplies and wandering the city "looking to take the edge off their jones."
Nagin is in his first term as mayor. He was sworn in May 2002. A Democrat, he was a popular reform candidate who promised to clean up the city's political corruption. He's a former cable company executive.
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