Half a Million in Search of Homes

Daily Mail (London), September 6, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Half a Million in Search of Homes


Byline: BARRY WIGMORE

AN unprecedented refugee crisis was unfolding across the U.S.

yesterday as emergency officials rushed to feed, clothe and shelter more than half a million people uprooted by Hurricane Katrina.

Health authorities grew increasingly fearful that diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and malaria could spread among the huge makeshift sanctuaries along the Gulf Coast.

New Orleans, now a ghost city, allowed some residents to return to check on their damaged homes, while officials continued to search for the living and recover the dead.

The city's mayor warned that 10,000 residents may have died, while its police chief said up to 500 of his 1,600-strong force were unaccounted for.

In Britain, petrol and diesel prices broke through the [pounds sterling]1 a litre barrier for the first time amid fears of an oil shortage after the hurricane shut refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

President Bush revisited the area yesterday, but again signally failed to set foot in New Orleans and the political 'blame game' over relief delays grew between government and state authorities.

A woman senator from Louisiana threatened to punch Mr Bush if federal officials didn't stop criticising local authorities.

Her outburst came as it was revealed that Michael Brown, the man Mr Bush appointed as head of the emergency response agency, FEMA, had no experience of disaster management, and had been sacked from his previous job organising horse shows because of incompetence.

The president, in his second visit to the region in four days, toured Baton Rouge, now the headquarters of relief efforts in Louisiana, and Poplarville, Mississippi.

'There's still a lot of work to do but we will continue to save lives, we will continue to get it done,' he said during a tour of a prayer centre.

But while the political recriminations continued, the practical problem growing by the hour was how to cope with the human tide leaving the stricken states.

In Texas, where nearly 250,000 refugees have filled relief centres, governor Rick Perry ordered officials to airlift some evacuees to other states willing to take them, such as West Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania.

'There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas,' he said.

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