Accessibility links

Breaking News

Millions of Floridians Wait for Hurricane Relief

Residents of the southern state of Florida stood in line for gasoline, ice and water on Wednesday, two days after hurricane Wilma swept through the state, causing 10 deaths. Almost three million customers are still without electrical power.

Power crews, including about 6,000 electric utility workers from other states, are working overtime to get the lights back on for millions of people who lost power because of Hurricane Wilma. There were long lines and traffic jams as Floridians waited for gasoline or went to distribution centers for food and water. Most service stations could not pump gas because they did not have electricity.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said he was frustrated and disappointed at the relief efforts. He warned that the 12 distribution centers in the Miami area were running out of supplies.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he took full responsibility for the problems. But he said residents had been told before the hurricane arrived that they should have stocked three days of provisions.

"People had ample time to prepare and it isn't that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water, just to do the simple things that we ask people to do," said Governor Bush.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), visited southeast Florida on Wednesday to view the relief efforts. FEMA was widely criticized for its response after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in September.

Mr. Chertoff said his agency was working around the clock to bring supplies to Florida from across the country.

"I understand there are frustrations here," he said. "As the governor has acknowledged, we can't always get to people as quickly as we hope to do it. But I will tell you that people here are working 24-7 to make sure that we do live up to a very high standard the governor has set for us to respond here."

Miami's International Airport reopened on Wednesday, but the airport in Fort Lauderdale, where 95 percent of residents had no electricity, remained closed.

President Bush, the brother of Florida's governor, plans to come to the state on Thursday to assess the damage.