A U.S. Senate panel has opened the first congressional probe into relief and response efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee began examining the preparations for and response to the crisis at all government levels today, Wednesday.
Before the panel convened, the death toll from Hurricane Katrina rose to more than 650 as authorities in New Orleans searched the city for more bodies. Louisiana officials also asked President Bush and Congress for urgent financial help so they can pay teachers and school employees.
In other developments, Louisiana filed negligent homicide charges against the owners of a New Orleans-area nursing home where 34 dead bodies were found after the hurricane. Officials say the owners ignored warnings to evacuate the patients.