Washington Bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina went uncollected for more than a week in the New Orleans area as the federal government waited for Louisiana's governor to decide what to do with them, according to memos released Thursday by a Republican-led House committee.
The 38 pages of e-mail between FEMA representatives and Pentagon officials contradict the contention by Louisiana's Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, two weeks after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, that the federal government was moving too slowly to recover the bodies.
They also underscore ongoing political tensions between the Republican Bush administration and Democratic state and local officials over the botched response to Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people in Louisiana. They were released by a House panel that many Democrats have shunned, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., that is investigating the government's sluggish preparations and reaction to the storm.
The memos indicate that morgues were not ready to receive bodies until Sept. 7 - two days after the first memo complaining about Blanco's inaction, and nine days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Blanco spokesman Bob Mann said Thursday it was FEMA's responsibility for removing bodies, which was delayed because the agency failed to sign a contract with Houston-based Kenyon International Emergency Services to do so.
"Yes, there was paralysis, but it was on the part of FEMA," Mann said.