U.S. President George W. Bush travels to the storm ravaged Gulf Coast Friday, for a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. And U.S. lawmakers have cut short their summer recess to act on a $10.5 billion emergency aid package proposed by the White House, for relief efforts.
With the situation in New Orleans continuing to deteriorate and reports of violence and looting increasing, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff announced Thursday thousands more National Guard forces are being deployed to the area.
With the situation in the city of New Orleans growing worse, thousands of National Guard forces arrived Thursday, to help quell the violence and lawlessness as well as aid in the evacuation of those who remained.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff reports, "In the city at large we're obviously very concerned to make sure that good order is maintained. There have been isolated incidents of criminality. We've all seen pictures of looting, but let me tell you that we have a tremendous array of forces that are currently deployed in New Orleans. As we speak, in addition to local law enforcement, we have 2,800 National Guard in News Orleans as we speak today.
An additional 1,400 National Guard, military police-trained soldiers, will be arriving every day - 1,400 today, 1,400 tomorrow, and 1,400 the next day. In effect, what that does is add the entire membership number of the New Orleans police force every day to the pool of security personnel who are in New Orleans."
There were reports of fights and gunfire at the Louisiana Superdome football stadium, where thousands of New Orleans residents were taking shelter. Conditions there declined rapidly, with no power, no air conditioning and no running water, tempers flared.
Many of those people have now been taken, on buses, to another sports stadium -- the Houston Astrodome in Texas. With most of the city still under water, evacuation and rescue efforts have been hampered. At the New Orleans Convention Center, people were waiting to leave the devastated city, but no buses had yet arrived.
The situation there was so dire, with no food or water or medical assistance, that the Mayor made a desperate plea for help.
Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said help is on the way, but he also explained that the floods that followed the hurricane have made relief and recovery efforts very difficult. "The continued challenge of dealing with water levels that can anywhere from three to four to eight feet, have dramatically impeded our ability to actually get these supplies into New Orleans. It has really created a double challenge. We're not only confronting the original disaster of the hurricane, we're confronting the ongoing disaster of the flooding."
The floodwaters in the city have become a dangerous pool of sewage, gasoline, animals and even human bodies, making people sick, with nowhere to get treatment. U.S. President George W. Bush says saving lives is the top priority. He will see the devastation first-hand in a Friday tour of the storm ravaged region.
At the White House Thursday, he sought to reassure those who have lost so much. "I know this is an agonizing time, or we all know this is an agonizing time, for the people of the Gulf Coast.
I ask their continued patience as recovery operations unfold. I can assure them that the thoughts and prayers of the entire nation are with them and their loved ones. I'm also confident that, when it's all said and done, the efforts to rebuild the great city of New Orleans and rebuild those communities in Mississippi and help the folks in Alabama, will make this nation a stronger place."
In some hurricane damaged parts of Mississippi Thursday -- there were small signs of hope. Relief in the form of water and ice had made its way through to needy residents. But officials say it will be a very long road to recovery all across the Gulf Coast.