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Aide Says FEMA Ignored Warnings

In a series of increasingly dire, angry e-mails and phone calls, Bahamonde updated Brown, aides and top spokesmen for FEMA beginning Aug. 28 from the New Orleans emergency operations center and then from the Superdome across the street.

"Issues developing at the Superdome. The medical staff at the dome says they will run out of oxygen in about two hours and are looking for alternative oxygen," Bahamonde wrote to FEMA Region VI spokesman David Passey on Aug. 28.


Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testifies before a House Select Committee hearing on the preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, in Washington. Chertoff said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina and must be retooled to improve preparation and response to natural disasters like the one that swamped the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testifies before a House Select Committee hearing on the preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005, in Washington. Chertoff said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina and must be retooled to improve preparation and response to natural disasters like the one that swamped the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson) (Lawrence Jackson - AP)

That night, 25,000 people were inside including 400 people with special medical needs and 45 who required hospitalization. The center was short of toilet paper, water and food, the last of which was adequate through Tuesday only because a Coast Guard helicopter crew found and broke into five abandoned FEMA trailer trucks at Bahamonde's direction, Bahamonde said yesterday.

About 7 p.m. Aug. 29, Bahamonde said, he called Brown and warned him of "massive flooding," that 20,000 people were short of food and water at the Superdome and that thousands of people were standing on roofs or balconies seeking rescue.

Brown replied only: "Thank you. I'm going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.

It is unclear what Brown told his superiors or the president's aides. He has testified to receiving "conflicting information" about 10 a.m. Monday that the levees had broken and at noon or 1 p.m. that "the levees had only been topped. So we knew something was going on between 10 and noon on Monday."

Bahamonde contradicted accounts by Brown that FEMA had positioned 12 staffers in the Superdome before the storm, that Bahamonde's reports Monday were "routine" and that FEMA medical personnel were on hand before Tuesday.

At 11:20 a.m. Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical . . . thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water . . . estimates are many will die within hours."

At 2:27 p.m., however, Brown press secretary Sharon Worthy wrote colleagues to schedule an interview for Brown on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and to give him more time to eat dinner because Baton Rouge restaurants were getting busy: "He needs much more that 20 or 30 minutes."

Bahamonde e-mailed a friend to "just tell [Worthy] that I just ate an MRE . . . along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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