Marines Continue Search for Katrina Survivors
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL AIR STATION NEW ORLEANS, La., Sep. 7, 2005 More than 1,000 Marines who hurried to the storm-stricken Gulf Coast are continuing their search for residents still in need of rescue and life-saving sustenance after Hurricane Katrina plunged much of New Orleans under water, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force officials reported.
From their initial staging base at Stennis International Airport, in Bay St. Louis, Miss., some 50 miles east of the storm's ground zero, elements of the active-duty 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and the Marine Reserve's 4th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment; and 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion were ferried to three critical areas isolated by the massive flooding, officials said.
Using a "hub-and-spoke approach," the Marines will push out in multiple directions from Slidell, La., and Picayune, Miss., just north of Lake Pontchartrain, and from Michoud, in New Orleans' eastern sector. Officials said their most urgent tasks are to locate survivors in homes and other buildings not completely awash and to funnel in much-needed food and water.
Near Michoud, where movement by foot is all but impossible, the Marines will navigate the fetid waters in amphibious vehicles called "amtracs," designed to transport Marines from ship to shore during amphibious operations, officials said.
As Marines continued to pour into the region over the weekend, leadership of the Marine task force shifted to Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell, commander of the New Orleans-based 4th Marine Division, a reserve unit.
Most Marines now on the ground in the region and aboard naval vessels in the Gulf of Mexico are based in North Carolina with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. The task force, numbering some 1,500 Marines and still growing, includes reserve elements from the 4th Marine Division and 4th Marine Air Wing, officials said.
In addition, nearly 300 Marines representing the task force's logistics component began moving ashore Sept. 5 near Biloxi with an array of engineering equipment -- including forklifts, trucks, Humvees and water-purification devices -- all well-suited to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, officials said.
The task force's air component, composed of elements of the 2nd and 4th Marine air wings, continued to fly from hubs in Pensacola, Fla., on the Gulf coast, and at the naval air station in Belle Chasse, La., about 10 miles from New Orleans. After rescuing some 500 stranded residents since Sept. 1 and with the airborne rescue effort all but completed, Marine helicopters prepared to expand their support of Marine ground forces, officials said.
(From a 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force news release.)