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Cut the red tape, Lott says

Criticizes FEMA for holding up 20,000 trailers 'sitting in Atlanta'

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Mississippi
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Trent Lott
Bill Clinton

POPLARVILLE, Mississippi (CNN) -- Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured.

"FEMA and MEMA need to be saying, 'Yes' to Mississippi's needs, not, 'No.," the former majority leader said in a written statement.

"Mississippians are homeless, hungry and hurting."

Similar stories of governmental red tape have been reported elsewhere, including a case of 100 surgeons and paramedics hindered from caring for hurricane victims in rural Mississippi. (Full story)

"This is an emergency situation without peer, like nothing our generation has ever encountered," Lott said. "If suffering people along the Gulf Coast, from Mobile to New Orleans, are going to recover as soon as possible, we'll need an unprecedented public and private effort that can't be hampered by a process geared toward much lesser disasters."

His own home, in Pascagoula, was among the thousands destroyed in the storm. (Full storm)

Bush visited Poplarville, Mississippi during a tour of the region Monday. He told a group of community workers assisting in relief efforts that the region will be rebuilt.

"I understand the damage, I understand the devastation, I understand the destruction, I understand how long it's going to take. And we're with you," Bush said. (Full story on his Gulf Coast visit)

Lott said he appreciated Bush's visit, but stressed to the president the need to cut through the bureaucracy.

Earlier in the day, former President Bill Clinton told CNN the government "failed" the people in the coastal communities in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. He called for a federal investigation into the handling of the disaster in the weeks ahead. (Watch interview -- 2:32)

In a reprise of their fund-raising efforts during the Asian tsunami, Clinton and former President George H. W. Bush have launched the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund to raise money for the people Katrina left homeless. (Full story)

Although officials have not put a price tag for the damage in Mississippi, it's expected to be in the billions.

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