Sunday, September 4, 2005

DALLAS — As victims of Hurricane Katrina continued arriving in Texas yesterday, tensions arose over how to handle the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the catastrophic storm, and the governor said the state probably couldn’t handle all those in need.

His office said centers would be set up at airports here and in Houston to greet evacuees and then fly them to other states, such as Utah, West Virginia, Iowa and Michigan, which had offered relief help.

An estimated 225,000 victims of the killer hurricane had arrived in Texas and officials predicted there could be 85,000 more on the way.

Contributing to the growing concern across the Lone Star State was a feeling of confusion and a lack of coordination.

“There seems to be a disconnect, obviously, between various government agencies and responding agencies,” said John Cabrales, a spokesman for the city of Denton. “We’re all hearing different things. We’re not sure what is accurate and what is not.”

Chief Bill Peterson of the Plano Fire Department said if a city does make a decision to open a shelter, it has “to do so not expecting to receive any assistance from anyone else.”

In some instances, state authorities did not immediately follow through on promised aid.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller on Friday criticized Gov. Rick Perry for not informing her that the first 25,000 evacuees were but hours away. Then, she said, the governor’s promises that the state would supply cots and blankets for two large city shelters weren’t fulfilled.

“I’m amazed at the lack of help we’re getting,” Mrs. Miller said. “The state has done zero to help us; the governor has done zero to help us — besides coming here for a photo op.”

In Houston, where the city organized massive relief centers at both the Astrodome and Reliant Arena, things originally went smoothly. More than 11,000 were hunkered down in the 40-year-old dome by Thursday night, when the city fire marshal declared no more could be accepted.

Houston Mayor Bill White overruled that and allowed 4,000 more inside the big stadium.

And the buses kept coming.

Another 3,000 were accommodated in Reliant Arena, and Saturday, the neighboring Reliant Center began filling up with another 11,000 evacuees.

Finally, along highways leading into Houston, where signs had welcomed “our neighbors,” the signs were changed to “Houston shelters are full. Go to Dallas or San Antonio.”

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, who has assigned officers to patrol shelters at the city’s convention center and Reunion Arena, said the city is “hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

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