Obama declares emergency ahead of 'Isaac'

Waves pound the boardwalk, the Malecon, during the passing of Tropical Storm Isaac in Havana Cuba. The storm is now due to hit the coast of Louisiana and Florida. Photo / AP
Waves pound the boardwalk, the Malecon, during the passing of Tropical Storm Isaac in Havana Cuba. The storm is now due to hit the coast of Louisiana and Florida. Photo / AP

US President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana as Tropical Storm Isaac gathered strength and threatened New Orleans, seven years after it was pummeled by Hurricane Katrina.

Obama informed the Gulf Coast state's governor, Bobby Jindal, that he was taking the move to free up federal funds and aid, during a conference call with local officials preparing for the storm, expected to come ashore on Tuesday.

The president also convened a briefing with officials including Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator (FEMA) Craig Fugate, hours before Isaac was expected to become a Category One hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

FEMA, along with other government agencies, including the Department of Defense, has staged emergency supplies closer to areas expected to experience severe weather.

"The president directed Administrator Fugate to ensure that FEMA was prepared regardless of the ultimate strength and impact of the storm,'' the White House said in a statement.

Isaac's approach, close to the seven-year anniversary of Katrina, which killed around 1,800 people, has sobering political overtones, as the presidency of George W. Bush was severely hit by his mishandling of the disaster.

Those memories also prompted the Republican Party to open and then suspend its convention in Tampa, Florida, which is meeting to nominate Mitt Romney as its White House candidate.

Obama's move allows the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief and emergency efforts, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the confusion that hampered the Katrina relief effort.

-AFP

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