GULFPORT, United States (AFP) -US Vice President Dick Cheney was confronted by an irate heckler when he toured the US Gulf coast region devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Cheney, who was sent to the region by President George W. Bush amid intense criticism of the federal response to the disaster, was briefing reporters in Gulfport, Mississippi, on his impressions of the relief work when he was interrupted by a bystander.
"Go f— yourself Mr. Cheney!" the unidentified man shouted. The man then repeated: "Go f— yourself!"
Asked by a reporter if had encountered similar protests during his tour, Cheney replied: "That”s the first time I”ve heard it."
Returning to the issue at hand, Cheney said the hurricane relief and recovery effort had made "significant" progress over the past week.
"I think the performance in general, at least, in terms of the information I have received from the locals is definitely very impressive," he said.
Cheney visited the region with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has been one of the principal targets of anger over the sluggish reaction of federal disaster agencies as the extent of the catastrophic destruction wrought by Katrina first became apparent.
"I”m here to help Mike and do everything I can to avoid interference back in Washington if help”s needed with related agencies," Cheney said.
"I have enormous confidence in the secretary as does the president," he added.
Later on in his tour, as he watched army engineers working to block one of the breaches in the system of flood-prevention levees around New Orleans, Cheney insisted that the city would emerge from the devastation stronger than ever.
"If there is a place on the face of the earth to have the resources to deal with this problem, it is the United States," he said.
Cheney, Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later accompanied Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to the state”s emergency operations center in Baton Rouge for talks with state and federal officials coordinating disaster aid.
The vice president said he would return to the affected region on Saturday.