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The Independent UK:Warnings Went Ignored as Bush Slashed Flood Defense Budget to Pay for Wars

The Independent UK reported that Warnings Went Ignored as Bush Slashed Flood Defense Budget to Pay for Wars on 2005-09-04.

"The US Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees, requested $27m this year for hurricane protection around the lake. President Bush tried to cut this to $3.9m, although Congress allowed $5.7m. The President also tried to cut $78m to improve drainage and prevent flooding in the city to $30m, though Congress passed $36.5m. A $14bn longer-term project to restore marshes was cut to $570m.

Plans to provide shelter for victims and evacuate the Superdome, started after last year's Hurricane Pam exercise, were abandoned. Eric Tolbert, chief of disaster response at Fema until last February, said this was because funding dried up. "What you are seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," he said last week. "They have been weakened by diversion into terrorism."

Mr. Maestri, the Jefferson Parish emergency director, added: "It appears that money has been moved in the President's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq. I suppose that's the price we pay."

Vital measures to protect New Orleans from "catastrophic" hurricane damage were scrapped by the Bush administration to pay for its wars on terror and in Iraq, despite official warnings of impending disaster.

Funding for flood prevention was slashed by 80 per cent, work on strengthening levees to protect the city was stopped for the first time in 37 years, and planning for housing stranded citizens and evacuating refugees from the Superdome were crippled. Yet the administration had been warned repeatedly of the dangers by its own officials.

In early 2001, at the start of Mr. Bush's presidency, his Government's Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) warned that a hurricane hitting New Orleans would be the deadliest of the three most likely catastrophes facing America; the others were a massive San Francisco earthquake and, prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York. "