Texas bursting with Katrina refugees

With Texas shelters reaching their limit of refugees from Hurricane Katrina, officials want to fly some of them to other states that have offered to help.

Refugees will be helped at Texas airports before being flown out
Refugees will be helped at Texas airports before being flown out

Governor Rick Perry said on Sunday that Texas needed other states to help manage the growing crisis.

Nearly a quarter of a million refugees are already in Texas and more are still pouring in.

“There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas by the day, if not the hour,” Perry said.

“We are doing everything we can to address the needs of evacuees as they arrive, but in order to meet this enormous need, we need help from other states.”

Under a plan set up on Sunday, aid centres will be established at airports in Houston and Dallas where incoming refugees can be given food, water and medical care before they are flown out. 

Air support

The Texas National Guard will coordinate the air operation and the governor’s office said that people should not just show up at an airport expecting to be transported. 

“There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas by the day, if not the hour”

Texas governor Rick Perry   

Perry said that American, Continental and Southwest airlines, all of which are based in Texas, had agreed to lend their help.

Since Thursday, Perry’s office has been in contact with several states, including the governors of Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa, New York, West Virginia and Pennsylvania about providing shelter for Louisiana evacuees.

Texas has been taking in refugees since Wednesday. By Saturday, Perry warned that the state was nearing its limit.

About 100,000 Louisiana residents are staying in hotels and motels across the state and another 139,000 are being temporarily housed in 137 shelters throughout the state from the Houston Astrodome to El Paso.

Presidential response

Meanwhile, US President George Bush – under fire for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina – was due to tour New Orleans on Monday.

Bush will make his second trip to the stricken region a day after sending top members of his cabinet to show support and defend relief operations that he himself acknowledged had been slow to get off the ground.

In a related development, former US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton were set on Monday to formally announce the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund at the Reliant Centre, which sits adjacent to the Astrodome in Houston.

Both complexes and an arena at the site are home to 24,000 of Hurricane Katrina’s refugees.

Bush (C) asked  his father (R) andClinton to help raise funds for aid 

Bush (C) asked  his father (R) and
Clinton to help raise funds for aid 

The money raised by the nationwide fund-raising campaign will go to the governors in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to assist with disaster relief and medical services.

The two former presidents first teamed up earlier this year to raise money for the Indian Ocean tsunami victims.

The pair raised $11 million during that effort and President George Bush asked his father and Clinton to pair up again for this crisis, George Bush Sr’s spokesman Jim McGrath said on Sunday.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has already pledged $15 million to the fund.

Canberra, Seoul complaints

Also on Monday, the governments of South Korea and Australia voiced frustration at US relief efforts that had prevented them from rescuing their citizens caught up in Hurricane Katrina.
Complaints of strict security, bad communication and a lack of transport were hampering attempts to account for up to 2500 South Korean expatriates living in chaotic New Orleans, while Australian tourists felt abandoned by their government, reports said.
South Korea said it had only been able to send officials into New Orleans on one occasion since Katrina struck a week ago, while Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said officials from Australia and Britain had only been granted access on Sunday.    

Source : News Agencies

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