FEMA frets over return to New Orleans

Sept. 18, 2005 at 7:57 AM

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's invitation for 180,000 to return to the storm-battered city this week has brought criticism from federal emergency officials.

"The return of the general population to the city of New Orleans is problematic," Vice Adm. Thad Allen told The Washington Post. Allen was appointed by President Bush to oversee the Federal Emergency Management Agency's recovery program.

Thursday, Nagin called for a phased-in return beginning this weekend with businesses, followed days later by three neighborhoods with minimal damage.

However, the New Orleans Times Picayune said although the areas escaped massive damage, there was still no electricity, clean water or food to be purchased since the Aug. 29 strike by Hurricane Katrina.

Maj. John Thomas, a FEMA spokesman told the newspaper federal officials were not trying to discredit Nagin's plan but merely to promote public awareness.

"What's important to understand is that conditions are, in many cases, inhospitable," Thomas said. "It's not like it used to be. People need to be aware of the safety and health hazards."

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