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Bush to Visit Hurricane-Ravaged Gulf Coast


President Bush will tour the hurricane-ravaged U.S. Gulf Coast on Friday. Mr. Bush says it is one of the worst natural disasters the nation has ever faced.

The president will visit the three hardest-hit states: Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

Spokesman Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush will view the damage from the air and on the ground in several flooded communities, including the city of New Orleans.

"Tomorrow's visit is another way for the president to show the nation's support and compassion for the victims and our appreciation for those who are helping with the ongoing recovery efforts," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush is putting a spotlight on efforts to raise private funds for hurricane relief. He has asked former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton to lead a national drive to raise private funds to help the hurricane victims. His father and immediate predecessor led a similar fundraising effort after the Indian Ocean tsunami late last year.

Mr. McClellan says under their direction, more than one-billion dollars was raised for tsunami relief. He says they will now be involved in energizing public support for victims of an American disaster.

"This is a national tragedy and one of the best ways for the American people to show our compassion for the people in the Gulf Coast region is to support with donations the efforts of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and others who are helping people in the region," he said.

Earlier, in an interview with ABC television's Good Morning America, the president talked about the magnitude of the problem. He said it is one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history, and added he understands the frustration of those still waiting for help.

In some cases, that frustration has led to lawlessness and looting. The president stressed such action will not be tolerated. He made specific mention not only of looting, but price gauging by gasoline stations, and insurance fraud - in essence, any action that takes unfair advantage of the situation.

Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush has personally ordered the Justice Department to take action necessary to deal with lawbreaking related to the storm. The president is also directing his aides to start assessing the economic impact of the disaster in preparation for making an emergency budget request to Congress.

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