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Homeland Security

Rescue, Relief Efforts Continue in US Gulf States

03 September 2005

Military vehicles with food and supplies continued to flow into New Orleans, as the exodus continues from the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Local officials continue to criticize the pace of the federal response, and President Bush is promising more help.

Federal officials are urging patience, but frustrations are running high in New Orleans, where many who were too poor to leave the city at their own expense are still waiting to be bussed out. Thousands remain at several sites, including the city's convention center, where many are spending their fifth day.

"Everybody lives here from paycheck to paycheck," said one of city's residents. "We don't have the money to get out of town like they want us to do."

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has accused Washington of being slow to respond because many who remain in the region are black and poor. He spoke early Saturday on NBC television.

"This is New Orleans, where the slave ships landed," said Jesse Jackson. "Somehow the legacy of slavery and segregation and response to crisis is a kind of unbroken line. We must do better, not feel angry about it, but get better."

He says another source of the problems was a lack of preparedness.

In a radio address Saturday, President Bush acknowledged problems and promised more help. He said more than 21,000 National Guard troops are in Louisiana and Mississippi, and that 7,000 more troops are being dispatched to the region. He spoke of the scope of the challenge.

"The magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," said George W. Bush. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable."

Friday, Mr. Bush signed a bill authorizing $10.5 billion in federal aid for the region.

Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, say rescue and relief workers have made tremendous progress. They say more than 7,000 lives have been saved, but that thousands of residents are still stranded.

Michael Brown of FEMA says help has been pouring in from people moved by the tragedy. Major commercial airlines, a cruise ship company and the Amtrak rail system have joined the effort, but he says the need is great.

"We have 80,000 in immediate needs in shelters in eight states," said Michael Brown. "Our friends are coming to our aid, Amtrak, others obviously are continuing to help us. The military informed me this morning, just a few minutes ago, they have a military hospital on their way."

Liese Hutchison of the American Red Cross says what is needed most from the public now is money.

"We're going to start giving out vouchers to the people that are in the shelters so that they can purchase the goods that they specifically need," said Liese Hutchison. "Right now they're getting basic goods, food, water, a blanket, clothing."

Around the United States, people are making donations and helping in other ways. Ham radio operators have played a crucial role in relaying information.

"This November-Nine-Alpha-Lima looking for emergency or priority traffic into or out of the affected area."

Friday, a televised fundraiser on NBC networks featured musicians who urged donations for the relief work. Even that was not free from controversy. Rapper Kanye West criticized the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina for focusing on looting in black neighborhoods.

An annual telethon hosted by comic Jerry Lewis, which will air Sunday and Monday, will raise money for the relief work, in addition to funds usually raised to combat the childhood disease of muscular dystrophy. Next Friday, major networks are scheduling yet another national fundraiser for the relief effort.


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