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Army to help with nation's largest reconstruction effort

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 16, 2005) -- President Bush promised "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen" in his speech to the nation Sept. 15 and just a few hours earlier, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded contracts totaling up to $4 billion for debris removal in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.

One contract was to clean up the state of Mississippi and another three were for Louisiana. Each of the four contracts had a value of up to $500 million, officials said, with the option to add an additional $500 million each.

The Corps of Engineers and National Guard actually began debris removal in some of the areas two weeks ago, upon request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mississippi’s debris: 5.8 million cubic yards (so far)

In Mississippi, debris removal began in Hancock County and the town of Waveland, one of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane.

To assist in making the operation as efficient as possible, the Corps requested residents to place debris on right-aways and sort it into the following piles: construction and demolition materials, vegetation, household waste items, white items (large appliances such as refrigerators and TVs) and hazardous waste.

More than 150 large trucks are in the area and more than 10,000 cubic yards of debris has been removed so far. The Corps expects to increase the number of trucks hauling in increments of 50 a day for some time, officials said.

Debris removal from Hancock County is being coordinated with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and is being removed to debris landfills, where it will be separated, reduced and then disposed of in the proper manner, officials said.

The Corps' overall Mississippi debris removal mission to date stands at 5.8 million cubic yards.

Army mends levees in Louisiana

In New Orleans, Army helicopters have been helping mend the city’s canal and levee system by hauling large sandbags that they dropped to seal the breaches.

Earlier this week the Corps of Engineers announced that the four main breaches had been repaired in the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal system, and officials shortened their estimate on how long it would take to pump floodwaters out of the city. They said most areas should be dry by mid October.

In fact, the mayor of New Orleans said that he would begin allowing residents back Saturday into some areas of the city already drained of floodwaters.

Helicopters key for search & rescue

When the storm surge caused breaches in New Orleans’ canal system Army helicopters were there to help rescue residents from the floodwaters.

For instance, since arriving in Louisiana nine days ago, five CH-47 Chinooks of the Army Reserve’s 159th Aviation Regiment have transported about 1,400 Soldiers and rescue workers; 115,000 pounds of cargo inside, consisting of mostly food and water; and 1.7 million pounds of sling-loaded cargo, mostly large sandbags to fix the levees. The crews have also transported 128 residents and several pets that were rescued from the flood waters.

"We picked up one grandmother in a wheelchair who had been up in her attic since the storm came through,” said Chief Warrant Officer Glenn Coffin, a pilot with the159th Aviation Regiment. “She was a tough lady but she was glad we came along and got her out. That's what we came here for - to help people."

Military best equipped for logistics

In his speech to the nation Sept. 15, President Bush said the military is best equipped to quickly provide the level of logistics needed in a major disaster.

So far, the military has assisted with the following logistics in the three states most affected by Hurricane Katrina:

• In Louisiana, more than 41,200 tons of ice and 27 million liters of drinking water have been delivered. More than 80 generators have been put in place, restoring power to 95 sites. More than 194,500 cubic yards of debris have been removed, including 53,000 in the last 24 hours. More than 530 roofs have been repaired.

• In Mississippi, more than 43,600 tons of ice and 16.2 million liters of drinking water have been delivered. More than 481,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed, including 132,000 in the last 24 hours. More than 830 roofs have been installed.

• In Alabama, more than 20,400 tons of ice has been distributed. More than 111,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed, including 29,600 in the last 24 hours. More than 180 travel trailers have arrived at Summerdale for housing, and 200 more have been ordered. So far 22 trailers have been installed.

For more information on the Army Corps of Engineers recovery efforts, see the Corps map.

(Editor's note: Information for this article compiled by ARNEWS editor Gary Sheftick from Corps of Engineers news releases and an article about the Army Reserve's 159th Aviation Regiment by Chuck Prichard.)

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