U.S. President George Bush says the federal government has launched the most massive relief effort in history, in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. The White House announced Thursday that Mister Bush will ask his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, and another former President, Bill Clinton, to raise contributions for the relief effort, as they did following last December's tsunami in Asia.
An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the United States are arriving in the Gulf Coast region, to boost security and help with rescue and relief operations. The American Red Cross is also sending emergency provisions to the region, including hospital beds and more than 16 million meals.
Thousands of New Orleans area residents had taken shelter in the Louisiana Superdome football stadium. But conditions at the stadium had become horrendous, with no working air conditioning and overflowing toilets because there is no power or running water.
Many of those people are now being sent to another sports stadium, the Houston Astrodome in Texas. The first of 500 buses began arriving Thursday morning.
In an interview on American television, Mister Bush said he understood the frustration of those awaiting help, saying that federal assistance is on the way. But he warned there will be, in his words, "zero tolerance” for those who break the law, including looters, or oil companies who exploit the tragedy to increase gasoline prices.
Mister Bush also said that in addition to his administration releasing crude oil from a federal petroleum reserve, the government would relax federal restrictions on the uses of so-called "blended fuels,” making more imported fuel available.
Despite the scope of the tragedy, Mister Bush says he has "no doubt" that the city of New Orleans will rebuild itself.