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 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.
"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."
"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.