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    Bush Urges Evacuation of US Gulf Coast Areas

    President Bush is urging people along America's Gulf Coast to follow evacuation orders ahead of another powerful hurricane that is expected to reach land late Friday or early Saturday.

    With the second big storm in less than a month bearing down on the Gulf Coast, President Bush is urging people to get out of the way of Hurricane Rita.

    "Federal, state, and local governments are coordinating their efforts to get ready," he said. "Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for New Orleans and Galveston. I urge the citizens to listen carefully to the instructions provided by state and local authorities and follow them. We hope and pray that Hurricane Rita will not be a devastating storm, but we've got to be ready for the worst," he said.

    President Bush says he is in close contact with Texas Governor Rick Perry and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco as their states prepare for the storm.

    Weather officials say the storm is expected to come ashore in Texas, sparing New Orleans another direct hit just weeks after Hurricane Katrina flooded most of the city. New Orleans pumps are still not operating at full capacity and its levees are only temporarily patched.

    The Army Corps of Engineers says six inches of rain could bring more wide-spread flooding in the city.

    More than 1,000 people died in the winds and floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, including some who have been living in shelters in Texas and are now on the move again ahead of Hurricane Rita.

    President Bush says the federal government will pay most of the costs of rebuilding roads and bridges and restoring health care, job training and primary education for those displaced. He says the government has already sent checks to more than 600,000 families who are now registered for future assistance as well.

    Mr. Bush says the amazing outpouring of support for those affected by the storm shows that the nation cares about them and they are not alone.

    "The scenes we witnessed in the past three weeks in Alabama, in Mississippi, and Louisiana have touched our hearts and have moved this nation to action. I'm not just talking about government. I'm talking about the whole country," he said.

    A joint fund-raising effort by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton has so far raised more than $96 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

     

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