Chief of relief effort removed from post

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The Independent US

As authorities said that the hurricane may have resulted in fewer victims than the 10,000 feared, Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Secretary, announced that he was recalling Mr Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to Washington to coordinate the response to other possible disasters.

Mr Chertoff said: "We have to have seamless interaction with military forces. Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge. I appreciate his work, as does everybody here."

His replacement will be Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the US Coast Guard, who will take charge of recovery operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Mr Brown had been the target of furious criticism for the government's slow initial response to the hurricane and some of both political parties have called for his firing.

But President George W. Bush publicly praised Mr Brown last week for doing a "heck of a job". The last straw appeared to come yesterday with the publication of details claiming Mr Brown had elaborated on parts of his his curriculum vitae.

Mr Brown’s removal as head of FEMA came after administration critics continued to turn up the heat. Before joining the Bush administration, he oversaw the International Arabian Horse Association for 10 years. Critics say his only real qualification for Fema was to have been a friend of the previous director, Joe Allbaugh.

Meanwhile, Colonel Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans, said figures for the dead did not appear to be as bad as first feared.

He said: "There's some encouragement in the initial sweeps. ... The numbers (of dead) so far are relatively minor as compared with the dire predictions of 10,000."