On his eighth visit to New Orleans Bush says a lot of people care

President George W Bush is making his eighth visit to the southern US coast since Hurricane Katrina struck.

Local officials in New Orleans have been briefing him on the progress of reconstruction projects.

The White House says the federal government is particularly keen to find out how local leaders are addressing housing needs in New Orleans, BBC says.

Correspondents say President Bush wants to show a hands-on approach to the recovery effort.

He has been being strongly criticised for his initial response to the disaster.

Nearly 1,200 people are known to have died in New Orleans and surrounding areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Much of New Orleans was devastated by flooding. Many areas remain uninhabitable, and a number of stores and businesses are still closed.

Officials said that, on arrival on Monday, President Bush met local officials to discuss problems associated with housing, insurance and repairing the city's system of ruptured levees.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said it was an "open exchange".

"The American people have their arms out. We want you to know that a lot of people care," Mr Bush told the officials, according to the spokesman.

The US president then travelled by helicopter to the New Orleans Convention Center.

Correspondents say this place became a symbol of the slow relief effort, as city residents waited there for days to be evacuated.

Mr Bush and his wife Laura had also dinner with members of a New Orleans commission set up by Mayor Ray Nagin to promote the city's revival.

During his two-day trip, he is expected to visit other communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.


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