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FEMA e-mails warned of possible Mississippi rioting in Katrina aftermath

[JURIST] Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [official website] officials in Mississippi knew that their response system had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] and warned headquarters of riots, according to an eight-page document of e-mails released Monday by the US House Government Reform Committee [official website]. The correspondence between former FEMA Mississippi top responder, William Carwile and FEMA regional response official Robert Fenton, reveals that FEMA officials knew they would not be able to provide rapid help amid shortages of food, water and ice in the days following the August 29 storm. The e-mails describe Carwile's difficulties in getting body bags and refrigerated trucks to an area severely affected by the storm, and include Fenton's warning that "big time law enforcement reinforcements" would be needed in expectation of riots that would result from the shortages. The correspondence follows Friday's release by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco [official website] of more than 100,000 documents [Governor's press release; supplement] to the House, which requested the documents for an investigation into the response and preparedness of FEMA officials. The documents revealed a partisan battle between the Democratic governor and the Bush Administration. As the investigation continues, the committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine whether race and class issues affected the government's sluggish response to the disaster and another hearing Wednesday to focus on the response. Democrats have called for the inquiry into the Katrina response to be carried out by an independent commission. AP has more.

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