Here’s one question we’re trying to get a handle on for our timeline. TPM Research Fellow Austin Bonner takes it from here …
Reports have pointed to the number body bags in New Orleans as a possible indication of the expected death toll. But it’s unclear from news reports if the number 25,000 means that FEMA estimated their need and then requested that many or there were simply 25,000 body bags available in the area.
On Thursday, September 8, the Times-Picayune reported that Bob Johannessen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, told them officials have “25,000 body bags on hand”, saying “We don’t know what to expect.” FEMA spokesman Ricardo Zuniga has used the same language. Fox News, Reuters, and other outlets also said the body bags were “on hand.” AP described the bags as “in the state.”
But San Antonio Express-News characterizes Johannessen’s statement differently, reporting that he ” said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has shipped 25,000 body bags to Louisiana.”
So, is there a background source out there telling reporters that FEMA estimated the death toll and had 25,000 body bags sent in or is this a misunderstanding?