- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

Government agencies and private relief organizations flew into action yesterday in what some are describing as the largest mobilization ever for a natural disaster after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast at dawn.

The American Red Cross said it is “mobilizing on all fronts to bring relief to storm victims” in the form of shelter for tens of thousands and hot meals for more than 500,000 people per day. The charity indicated its mobilization will be the “largest in history.”

“We are mobilizing all the resources the Red Cross can muster,” said Red Cross spokesman Pat McCrummen.

The response required is “bigger than any one agency can handle,” Mr. McCrummen said, adding that “federal, state and local agencies, disaster-relief organizations and the communities affected” will have to contribute.

James McIntyre, a spokesman, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said: “Hurricane Katrina is still a dangerous storm. … Our first priority is life-saving efforts, and we’re also focusing on life-sustaining efforts.”



Mr. McIntyre said 23 medical assistance teams and two veterinary teams will be at work in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Because of dangers such as fallen trees and downed power lines in parts of those states, FEMA teams had not been deployed to hard-hit areas.

“But we’re working to pre-position supplies, equipment and people so we can ensure a rapid response as soon as it is safe to do so,” Mr. McIntyre said yesterday.

Truckloads of goods including ice, water, generators and medical supplies are being delivered, he said.

In addition, he said, seven urban search and rescue teams were “pre-staged” in Jackson, Miss., and Shreveport, La., and will be used as needed to search for trapped flood victims.

The Red Cross set up more than 200 temporary shelters for those fleeing the storm.

Maj. Dalton Cunningham, the Salvation Army’s divisional commander for Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, said the organization’s “response team is growing by the minute.”

Wal-Mart yesterday announced it would donate $1 million to the Salvation Army to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. More than 800 Wal-Mart stores were closed yesterday in Gulf Coast states affected by the hurricane.

The Southern Baptist Convention, in coordination with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, is helping prepare nearly 1 million hot meals for storm victims. Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, said Baptist volunteers will be in charge of 29 kitchens.

The Salvation Army will be serving 400,000 hot meals daily at 250 shelters set up in New Orleans and at another 150 shelters in Mobile, Ala.

Meals also will be served from 72 mobile canteens and from two 54-foot mobile kitchens that can provide 20,000 hot meals per day. The Salvation Army said the kitchens will be dispatched after FEMA’s assessment of areas hardest hit by the hurricane.

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