Red Cross: State rebuffed relief efforts
Aid organization never got into New Orleans, officials say
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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (CNN) -- Louisiana officials rebuffed American Red Cross requests to enter New Orleans with relief supplies last week because of concerns over logistical difficulties, Red Cross and state officials said Thursday.
The Red Cross never launched its relief effort in the city.
The national president of the American Red Cross, Marsha Evans, first made the request to undertake the operation during a visit to the state on September 1, three days after Hurricane Katrina struck, a local Red Cross chapter official said.
Vic Howell, chief executive officer of the agency's Louisiana Capital Area Chapter, said he renewed that request the next day to Col. Jay Mayeaux, the deputy director of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
"We had adequate supplies, the people and the vehicles," Howell said at a news conference in Baton Rouge. "It was the middle of a military rescue operation trying to save lives. We were asked not to go in, and we abided by that recommendation."
Mayeaux, appearing at the news conference with Howell, said he had asked the Red Cross to wait 24 hours for conditions to be "set" for the operation.
"To set up a feeding station to feed a large number of people, you need space. You need to escort the personnel into position. ... And we asked Mr. Howell, and he concurred, to wait 24 hours to go to set that in," Mayeaux said.
By Saturday, however, the point became moot because the large-scale evacuation of the city was under way, Howell and Mayeaux said.
"After that point in time ... their rescue operation was in full force, and they felt they had adequate supplies there to take care of it without (the Red Cross) being introduced into the situation," Howell said. "So we did not go directly into New Orleans."
The National Guard began moving large quantities of food, water and ice into New Orleans and other damaged areas of southeast Louisiana on Wednesday, two days after the hurricane struck and a day before the Red Cross made its request to go in, Mayeaux said.
The supplies were being delivered from Camp Beauregard, a National Guard base near Alexandria, 150 miles away, in the central part of the state.
So far, 16.4 million pounds of ice, 14.2 million quarts of water and 7.9 million ready-to-eat meals have been distributed, Mayeaux said.
In addition, food and water had also been stored before the storm at the Louisiana Superdome and other shelters, Mayeaux said. He added that guard troops also brought supplies.
Mayeaux said that state officials did "push" supplies into the distribution pipeline before requests were made and did not wait for local officials to request them.
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