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Bush Praises Cooperation in Hurricane Response

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2008 – Cooperation among federal, state, local governments and non-governmental agencies has been much better as Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast than it was when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, emergency officials said.

Speaking in Austin, Texas, today, President Bush praised the governors of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, saying “there was clearly a spirit of sharing assets, of listening to somebody's problems and saying, how can we best address them?”

Bush said the federal government is very much involved in assisting the states. Gustav stormed ashore in Louisiana this morning. More than 2 million people evacuated their homes in advance of the storm that killed 84 people in the Caribbean.

“It's hard for a citizen to pull up stakes and move out of their homes and face the uncertainty that comes when you're not at home,” Bush said.

The storm has been downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, but it has spawned tornadoes into Alabama and Mississippi and rain from the storm threatens to flood northern Louisiana and eastern Texas. Bush told evacuees not to go back home before local officials have cleared the area.

“This storm is yet to pass,” he said. “It's a serious event.”

Officials in the area are beginning to begin the search and rescue phase. There are more than 70 National Guard helicopters in Meridian, Miss., waiting for permission to fly. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army also have choppers that can be deployed if needed, said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

In Gulfport, Miss. – an area wiped out by Hurricane Katrina – road crews are already working to clear highways of debris. In New Orleans National Guardsmen and police are patrolling the streets of the nearly deserted city.

There are currently more than 12,000 National Guardsmen on state missions in the region. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has requested a further 16,000 National Guard troops for his state, National Guard Bureau officials said. Governors from as far away as New York and New Mexico offered their National Guard soldiers to assist in the Gulf Coast if needed.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of flood protection for New Orleans, said the storm surge of about 8 feet overwashed the levees in some areas, but so far have not broken. Television footage showed water lapping over the levee near the Industrial Canal, where a break in 2005 flooded 80 percent of the city. Corps officials said for now pumps can handle the water in the city. Corps officials said the surge had gone down in the Industrial Canal from earlier in the day.

But officials were quick to say, the danger has not passed. Tornadoes and torrential rain remain a problem even for inland counties and parishes. FEMA officials urged all those who evacuated to remain un place until they receive an all clear.

FEMA officials said they are keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Hannah. The storm is a category 1 hurricane that could land in the southeastern United States from Florida to North Carolina.

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