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Gary Younge
Bush fails to stem anger

The president flew to Baton Rouge and visited a church relief centre to talk to survivors and relief workers.

"All levels of the government are doing the best they can," he said, before flying on to visit another devastated community along the coast in Mississippi. "So long as any life is in danger, we've got work to do."

Many of the evacuees at the centre remained unimpressed. Mildred Brown, who has been there since Tuesday with her husband, mother-in-law and cousin, told the Associated Press: "I'm not interested in hand-shaking. I'm not interested in photo ops. This is going to take a lot of money."

Bodies were yesterday being collected from swamped houses across New Orleans and brought to an improvised morgue in St Gabriel, 12 miles south of Baton Rouge, for identification.

The coast guard continued its search for survivors trapped on rooftops or on the upper storeys of flooded buildings.

"About 40,000 are unaccounted for," the New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, told WLL radio. He told NBC that "it wouldn't be unthinkable to have 10,000 dead".

The mayor warned that more than $1m (about £540,000) worth of natural gas was leaking into the gulf creating fresh hazards.

Tens of thousands of residents of Jefferson parish, which adjoins the city, tried to return to their homes yesterday. They were being allowed in for 12 hours to collect belongings and assess damage in an area that their parish president, Aaron Broussard, described as "looking like Somalia or Iraq".

Mr Bush's visit was his second to the disaster zone in four days, as more reports of government incompetence surfaced amid calls for the dismissal of top officials, particularly at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema).

The Chicago Tribune reported that a huge assault ship, the USS Bataan, had been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico when the hurricane struck. Despite the fact it had six operating rooms and 600 hospital beds, and was willing to help, Fema did not use it all week.

A New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune, published an open letter to the president calling for every official at Fema to be fired, "director Michael Brown especially".

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