The Red Cross and federal government said Tuesday that they had been significantly overreporting the number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in hotels. Instead of 600,000 people, 200,000 remain in hotels, the charity said.
Although the lower number means that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and cities receiving evacuees will find new housing for far fewer people, the count shows the lack of knowledge that FEMA has about the relocations and its limited oversight over the money it is committed to spend on such housing.
"FEMA still does not know any more about what it was doing last week than it was a month ago," Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said. "It is still, as far as I am concerned, an incompetent agency."
FEMA had reported to Congress that as of last Wednesday, it was housing 576,135 people in 206,564 hotels rooms, with the largest numbers, in order, in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. The New York Times and other news organizations reported the Red Cross and FEMA estimates, which meant that the government would have been spending $11 million a night for hotels and motels. Now, relief officials say, 70,000 rooms are occupied, costing $4 million a night.
A spokeswoman for the emergency agency, Frances Marine, said it had relied on the Red Cross for the estimates that it provided to Congress as its own. "It is unfortunate," Ms. Marine said...