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Bush Promises Hurricane Aid, Says Recovery Could Take Years

President Bush says the U.S. government is rushing aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the first step in a recovery effort he says could take years. Mr. Bush says the task of rebuilding will be difficult, but it will be done.

The president's face appeared grim, but determined as he addressed the nation from the steps of the White House Rose Garden, flanked by members of his cabinet.

"We are dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history," he said.

The president outlined all the steps government agencies are taking to help the hurricane victims. He said the road ahead will be tough, but there is hope.

"The challenges that we face on the ground are unprecedented," Mr. Bush said. "But there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to succeed."

Mr. Bush spoke of the sadness, fear, and frustration felt by those hardest hit by the hurricane, saying right now the days seem awfully dark for those affected. He said their country stands with them.

"I am confident, that with time you will get your lives back in order, new communities will flourish, the great city of New Orleans will get back on its feet and America will be a stronger place for it," he added.

The president spoke shortly after he returned to the White House from his Texas ranch, cutting his month-long vacation short by a few days in order to oversee emergency aid efforts from the nation's capital.

On his flight back to Washington, Mr. Bush got an aerial view of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after it left Texas, his jumbo jet, Air Force One, dipped low through the clouds and flew over the neighboring Gulf Coast states.

"The vast majority of New Orleans, Louisiana is under water," he said. "Tens of thousands of homes and businesses are beyond repair. A lot of the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been completely destroyed."

President Bush stressed the first priority is to save lives, then to provide supplies to sustain the survivors and to help them rebuild. He is expected to visit the disaster area in the coming days, perhaps before the end of the week.