NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Four days after Hurricane Katrina struck, the National Guard arrived in force Friday with food, water and weapons, churning through the floodwaters in a vast truck convoy with orders to retake the streets and bring relief to the suffering.
"The cavalry is and will continue to arrive," said one general.
The trucks began arriving at the New Orleans Convention Center, where 15,000 to 20,000 hungry and desperate refugees had taken shelter - many of them seething with anger so intense that the place appeared ready to erupt in violence at any moment. For a day or more, corpses lay abandoned outside the building, and many storm refugees complained bitterly that they had been forsaken by the government.
The open-topped trucks carried huge boxes of relief supplies. Soldiers sat in the backs of some of the trucks, their rifles pointing skyward.
The soldiers' arrival-in-force came amid blistering criticism from the mayor and others who said the federal government had bungled the relief effort and let people die in the streets for lack of food, water or medicine.
"The people of our city are holding on by a thread," Mayor Ray Nagin warned in a statement to CNN. "Time has run out. Can we survive another night? And who can we depend on? Only God knows."
And this. Emphasis mine:
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Facing sharp criticism, President Bush opened a tour of the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast on Friday by vowing the government will restore order in lawless New Orleans and saying the $10.5 billion being approved by Congress is just a small downpayment for disaster relief.
"I'm not looking forward to this trip," Bush said as he set out for a firsthand look at the destruction in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
"It's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by the worst kind of weapon you can imagine," the president said.
Bush began the day at the White House where he expressed unhappiness with the efforts so far to provide food and water to hurricane victims and to stop looting and lawlessness in New Orleans. "The results are not acceptable," said Bush, who rarely admits failure.
The president's comments came after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at federal officials, telling a local radio station "they don't have a clue what's going on down here."
Even Republicans were criticizing Bush and his administration for the sluggish relief effort. "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
He urged Bush to name former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as the White House point person for relief efforts. Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., also suggested Giuliani or former Secretary of State Colin Powell or retired Gen. Tommy Franks to take charge of the relief efforts.
Bush got a warm reception in Mobile from Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bob Riley of Alabama. Both praised the federal government's response. Still, Barbour said, "We've suffered a grievous blow that we won't recover from for a long while."
Standing with the governors in an airplane hangar, Bush said, "We have a responsibility to clean up this mess."
"What is not working right, we're going to make it right," Bush said. Referring to rampant looting and crime in New Orleans, Bush said, "We are going to restore order in the city of New Orleans."
"The people of this country expect there to be law and order, and we're going to work hard to get it," the president said. "In order to make sure there's less violence, we've got to get food to people."
"We'll get on top of this situation," Bush said, "and we're going to help the people that need help."
Bush was accompanied by Homeland Security Department secretary Michael Chertoff. The department, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been accused of responding sluggishly to the deadly hurricane. On the plane ride to Alabama, Bush was briefed on plans for housing the tens of thousands of people displaced by the hurricane.
"There's a lot of aid surging toward those who've been affected. Millions of gallons of water. Millions of tons of food. We're making progress about pulling people out of the Superdome," the president said.
For the first time, however, he stopped defending his administration's response and criticized it. "A lot of people are working hard to help those who've been affected. The results are not acceptable," he said. "I'm heading down there right now."