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Bush Boosts Aid Request for New Orleans

President Bush will ask Congress for another $1.5 billion to help rebuild the levee system around the city of New Orleans, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

White House officials say the additional funding will help ensure that New Orleans does not again suffer the extent of flooding that inundated the city following the killer storm more than three months ago.

The request nearly doubles the $1.6 billion the president has already requested from Congress to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Along with closing three interior canals and installing better pumping equipment along Lake Pontchartrain, the coordinator of the federal reconstruction effort, Donald Powell, says this new package offers the best flood protection New Orleans has ever had.

"I'm convinced that what we are doing here today, if there is another Katrina that hits New Orleans that we would not see the catastrophic results that we saw during Katrina," he said. "As I mentioned, there would be some flooding, but it would be manageable-type flooding."

Asked if the changes would protect New Orleans from a category five hurricane, Mr. Powell said there is no design that can compete with whatever nature has to offer. But judging by the standards of Hurricane Katrina, he says the city would be better protected.

Mr. Powell spoke following a meeting with President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was among the local officials who criticized the federal response immediately following the storm.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mayor Nagin said the increased commitment of federal resources to protect the city should be a message to both residents and businesses that it is time to come home to New Orleans.

"We now have the commitment and the funding for hurricane protection at a level that we have never had before," he said. "These levees will be as high as 17 feet [more than five meters] in some areas. We've never had that. These levees will be fortified with rock and concrete. We've never had that before."

Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,300 people along the Gulf Coast when it struck at the end of August.