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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:22, September 03, 2005
US gears up relief efforts as ground situation deteriorates
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The US government is intensifying its relief efforts for the Gulf Coast areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina four days ago, as the ground situation there is getting worse.

On Friday morning, thousands of National Guardsmen with food, water and weapons streamed into the hurricane-ravaged city of New Orleans, Louisiana, to bring relief to the suffering multitudes and take back the streets from the looters and thugs.

US President George W. Bush is set to leave the White House early in the day to tour the devastated areas in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

He is scheduled to take part in a briefing in Alabama, before taking an aerial tour of that area and nearby Mississippi.

US First Lady Laura Bush will travel separately to those areas and will meet with refugees in Louisiana.

US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that 4,200 National Guard troops trained as military police will be deployed in New Orleans over the next few days.

The US Senate convened in special session Thursday night and approved a 10.5- billion-US-dollar disaster relief request from the Bush administration. The House is expected to do the same when it takes up the matter Friday.

However, for tens of thousands of people who have been stranded in hurricane-ravaged areas for four days without food, water or relief from the heat, there is only frustration, anger and despair.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at state and federal officials, saying they were "thinking small" in the face of the massive crisis.

Nagin said he needs military troops to provide security and 500 buses to take people stranded out of the city. But so far the promises are unfulfilled.

"I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming. That is coming. My answer to that is bullshit. Where is the beef?" he said.

AS TV news footage show, thousands of people are stranded at the city's Convention Center with little help and surrounded by corpses, trash and human waste.

"We've got small children and sick and elderly people dying every day, small children being raped and killed, people running around with guns -- I'm scared for my life, my wife and my 5-year-old daughter's life. We don't even want to live here anymore," said a refugee there.

Adding to the chaos, at least one explosion sparked a chemical fire before the daybreak.

Video footage of the fire showed towering flames and huge clouds of smoke as local authorities were trying to get a hazardous materials team to the area.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said Friday morning that she hoped needed aid would begin arriving Friday.

On Thursday she warned lawbreakers that extra troops had arrived in the city -- with more on the way, and they know how to "shoot and kill."

Shelters all over Louisiana are filling up, she noted, along with shelters in Texas and Arkansas.

The Houston Astrodome in Texas, where thousands of refugees had arrived by bus over the past couple of days, stopped accepting refugees late Thursday.

Other New Orleans refugees are being taken to Huntsville, Texas, along with San Antonio and Dallas.

Among other bad news, gasoline prices spiked as high as five dollars a gallon in some areas Thursday as consumers fearing a gas shortage raced to the pumps.

The run-up in prices prompted Bush to warn against gouging and to encourage Americans to conserve.

The deadly Hurricane Katrina made its first landfall on US soil last Thursday before sweeping through the US Gulf Coast region with winds up to 300kph earlier this week.

At least 198 people have been killed so far and will surely rise abruptly as the body counting continues. Bush described it as "one of the worst natural disasters" in American history and predicted it will take years for the affected areas to fully recover.

Source: Xinhua

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