BUSH: THEY WERE UNDERPRIVILEGED, SO THIS IS WORKING VERY WELL FOR THEM
From Ryan Parry in New Orleans
BUNGLING Barbara Bush yesterday claimed poverty-stricken refugees who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina are actually better off thanks to the devastating floods.
The 80-year-old former first lady piled more pressure on her under fire son George's administration by declaring that the victims are so happy in their makeshift camps they would rather stay than go back to their impoverished communities.
BUTTON IT: Barbara Bush
Her gaffe came after a visit with husband George Snr to the Astrodome stadium in Houston, Texas, where thousands of evacuees from New Orleans and other affected areas are being housed.
Barbara chuckled as she said: "So many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. Almost everyone I've talked to says: 'We're going to move to Houston'."
Many of the refugees are anxiously waiting for news of missing loved ones. Their homes have been destroyed and families shattered by the hurricane that hit southern America last week.
Barbara's comments come as celebrities lined up to criticise George Bush over delays in responding to the crisis.
As the hunt for the thousands of people still missing intensified yesterday, James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, 52, said: "This man called President Bush has a lot to answer for. I don't know if he is really taking care of America. This government has been shameful."
Actor Colin Farrell added: "If this had been a bunch of white people on the roofs of their houses I don't have any f***ing doubt there would have been every single helicopter, plane and means that the government has trying to help."
The 29-year-old Irishman spoke out after being auctioned off on a £6,000 charity date.
Other stars rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job of helping stricken communities themselves rather than waiting for politicians to sort out the mess.
Actor Sean Penn spent nine hours pulling bodies out of the putrid waters in New Orleans.
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He said: "It's the ultimate distress and human suffering.
"Though we have come to be suspicious of the will of our administration, I don't think anybody ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in this situation."
Penn had to abandon his mission when his boat sprung a leak. He bailed out using a plastic cup.
Grease star John Travolta delivered five tonnes of food and 400 tetanus shots to Louisiana on his private jet. He visited shelters across the region and spoke to victims before touring New Orleans with actress wife Kelly Preston.
Singer Paul Simon donated two mobile medical units and Barry Manilow announced his fund had raised £81,000 in aid.
Macy Gray and Oprah Winfrey visited the devastated region. Chat queen Oprah also handed out food at the Astrodome.
Author John Grisham has given £2.7million to the relief effort in his home state of Mississippi. Rappers P Diddy and Jay-Z pledged £550,000 to help the thousands of homeless.
Several concerts are being staged including an MTV benefit gig called ReAct Now: Music & Relief on Saturday. The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Kanye West, Sheryl Crow and Paul McCartney are due to play.
Up to 10,000 are believed killed by Katrina. By last night the floodwaters had dropped substantially and rescuers braced themselves for what horrors the receding deluge would reveal.
Dozens of refrigerated trucks were on standby to store bodies.
Draining the remaining water is likely to take weeks and with so many people decomposing the risk of disease worsens by the day.
In Violet on the Mississippi, 22 bodies were found lashed together around a pole - evidence of a bid to escape the rising waters.
New Orleans police estimated there were fewer than 10,000 people left in the city. Many refuse to leave their homes. The authorities have now refused to hand out water to those who insist on staying.
But officials said the lawlessness that plagued New Orleans has been brought under control.
Mr Bush yesterday pledged to lead a probe into the government's dismally slow relief effort. He said: "We've got to solve problems."
No one ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in the situation
This man called Bush has a lot to answer for.. I don't know if he's taking care of the US
If they'd been white people, the government would have used every means in trying to help these people