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Refugee Centers Worry About Overcrowding


President Bush returned to the U.S. Gulf Coast region Monday, his second visit there since Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Coast Guard and National Guard units continue to rescue stranded people, while hundreds of thousands of displaced people are being relocated - in some cases to emergency shelters thousands of kilometers away.

President and Mrs. Bush left Washington Monday morning to return to the Gulf Coast to get another first-hand view of the damage and to monitor relief and recovery efforts.

Outside of New Orleans, hundreds of helicopters continued to ferry thousands of people to an airport. From there, they were transferred by aircraft to hospitals or shelters in various states.

But now federal and state officials, especially in neighboring states, are dealing with the problems of overcrowding in makeshift shelters, including many sports arenas being used for emergency services.

Some 15,000 people have filled up the Houston Astrodome in Texas. There are estimates of a quarter of a million displaced people in that southwestern state. Despite concerns by local and federal officials about providing care for so many people, a steady caravan of buses continues to arrive in Houston.

Many of those who have already sought shelter there, but are well enough to travel, are being relocated to other cities, such as Phoenix, Arizona. Several planes began arriving there Sunday.

City officials say a sports arena, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, may be used to provide shelter to some 1,000 people.

Meanwhile federal officials, already under criticism for their handling of the disaster, are warning that the scope of Katrina's devastation is growing more apparent each day. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Sunday in a CNN interview the death toll is certain to be "in the thousands."

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