Thursday, November 03, 2005
DOWNLOAD the PDF File Here Bahamonde sent an e-mail to Deborah Wing, a FEMA response specialist. He wrote: "Everyone is soaked. This is going to get ugly real fast."
Subsequent e-mails told of an increasingly desperate situation at the New Orleans Superdome, where tens of thousands of evacuees were staying. Bahamonde spent two nights there with the evacuees.
On Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."
"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote. "The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."
A short time later, Brown press secretary Sharon Worthy wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," wrote Brown aide Sharon Worthy.
"Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."
In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but didn't get a response.
"He just said 'Thank you' and that he was going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.
Senators on the Homeland Security panel were dismayed.
"We will examine further why critical information provided by Mr. Bahamonde was either discounted, misunderstood, or simply not acted upon," said Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, decrying the "complete disconnect between senior officials and the reality of the situation."
Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the panel's senior Democrat, agreed. "His story is deeply troubling in fact, ultimately infuriating, and raises serious questions which our committee's investigation must answer," Lieberman said.
In e-mails, Bahamonde described to his bosses a chaotic situation at the Superdome. Bahamonde noted also that local officials were asking for toilet paper, a sign that supplies were lacking at the shelter.
"Issues developing at the Superdome. The medical staff at the dome says they will run out of oxygen in about two hours and are looking for alternative oxygen," Bahamonde wrote in an e-mail to regional director David Passey on Aug. 28.
Bahamonde said he was stunned that FEMA officials responded by continuing to send truckloads of evacuees to the Superdome for two more days even though they knew supplies were in short supply.
"I thought it amazing," he said. "I believed at the time and still do today, that I was confirming the worst-case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans."