President Bush is sending more federal troops to help restore order in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.
President Bush says more than 7,000 troops from elite Airborne and Marine units will arrive in the area over the next few days. “Our priorities are clear,” he said. “We will complete the evacuation as quickly and safely as possible. We will not let criminals prey on the vulnerable, and we will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives.”
The president has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for the pace of the federal response to a killer storm that made landfall six days ago.
Mr. Bush says the situation on the ground is improving hour by hour, but the enormity of the task has strained resources. He says it is unacceptable that many people are not getting the help they need, especially in the hardest-hit city of New Orleans.
Where the response is not working, the president vowed to make it right. “I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering,” he said. “Many are angry and desperate for help. The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need, and the federal government will do its part.”
The president toured storm-damaged areas in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana Friday, comforting people who have lost their homes and inspecting repairs to a breach in a New Orleans levee that has left much of the city under several meters of water.
On his return to Washington, Mr. Bush signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package for those areas, calling it a down payment on what will be a sustained federal commitment. “We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done,” said the president. “This week, we have all been humbled by the awesome powers of Mother Nature. And when you stand on the porch steps where a home once stood or look at row upon row of buildings that are completely under water, it is hard to imagine a bright future. But when you talk to the proud folks in the area, you see a spirit that can not be broken.
In a weekly radio address delivered live from the White House Rose Garden, the president said there is difficult work ahead. But Americans can be certain that the nation has the character, resources and resolve to overcome the disaster and rebuild New Orleans.
In the Democratic radio address, Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon said the death and immense suffering from Hurricane Katrina shows that long-sought-after coastal restoration projects are not just a matter of commerce but of safety. He says he is leading a bipartisan effort to spend more federal money on hurricane protection and projects to strengthen levees.