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Bush Vows Better Future for Hurricane Damaged Gulf Coast


U.S. President George Bush says the victims of Hurricane Katrina have not been forgotten, and the American Gulf Coast is coming back after one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Bush spoke on his 17th trip to the region since the storm hit almost three years ago.

The president says the region is rebounding from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"Who would have thought that three years after the storm the president can come here and say New Orleans, Louisiana is on its way back as a stronger and better city," he said.

He says the restoration process may not be totally complete, but New Orleans - and the rest of the Gulf Coast - is on the right path.

"There are people hurting," said Mr. Bush. "I fully understand that. People are waiting to get back in their homes wondering whether a brighter day is possible. Yet, a brighter day is coming."

Speaking at a local military compound in New Orleans that has become a center for hurricane relief efforts, the president noted that people are coming back to the region, schools are reopening and homes are being restored. He also pointed to efforts to restore the levees that broke during Hurricane Katrina - flooding most of New Orleans and the surrounding area.

"The Army Corps of Engineers has repaired 220 miles of levees," he said. "That is important. You cannot rebuild these communities unless you are confident the levee system will work in the future."

The Bush administration came under intense criticism for its initial reaction to the storm.

Since then, the federal government has allocated $126 billion to help the region recover from Hurricane Katrina, along with $14 billion in tax relief for local businesses.

But critics continue to say the Bush administration has provided too little, too late. The international aid organization OXFAM, for example, says most of the progress in the Gulf Coast has come at the hands of its residents who have had to surmount obstacles placed in their way by Washington.

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