KATRINA'S EFFECTS | Responses and challenges
The latest developments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
A week of uncertain energy prices awaits motorists after record high prices for gasoline throughout the long Labor Day weekend. The AAA motor club reported Monday that the nationwide average for a gallon of gasoline was $3.05, although prices were much higher in most major metropolitan areas. But prices could start dropping as soon as this week. "I think there will more or less be a return to normal. We are finding more [oil] rigs coming back, refineries are coming back, pipelines are coming back. It would appear the worst is behind us," said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst with Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Conn. Power was restored to three-quarters of the storm-tattered Gulf Coast region over the weekend, allowing pipelines to increase the flow of oil and gasoline, especially to the East Coast, which has seen spot shortages and runs on gasoline stations.
Fed up with the criticism, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass said Monday that his officers held their ground without food, water and even ammunition in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "In the annals of history, no police department in the history of the world was asked to do what we [were] asked," Compass said with a mix of anger and pride. Two police officers killed themselves. Another was shot in the head. Compass said 150 had to be rescued from 8 feet of water and others had gotten infections from walking through the murky soup of chemicals and pollutants in flooded areas of the city. Compass denied that police officers deserted in droves. Some officers had abandoned their jobs, he said, but he did not know how many. He said the department was doing a roll call.
Former Presidents Bush and Clinton visited hundreds of hurricane victims in Houston's Astrodome and a nearby center Monday, sharing hugs, signing Bibles and listening to stories about the homes and lives that have been devastated. Together, the two ex-presidents, who raised $11 million for victims of last year's Asian tsunami, announced the creation of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, then spent more than four hours talking with the evacuees. "They are beginning to think about the rest of their lives now, so I think it is up to us to fill in the blanks," Clinton said. Clinton said the federal government's response to the tragedy should be examined, but for now, he said, the focus needs to be on helping the refugees restart their lives.
European nations prepared aid teams, food rations, water pumps and even cruise ships Monday to help U.S. regions hit by Hurricane Katrina. Countries large and small have offered aid -- from tiny Luxembourg's beds and blankets to half a million food rations from Germany and Britain. Greece put on standby two cruise ships to house refugees and Sweden has offered aircraft to help distribute aid shipments, said Barbara Helfferich, a European Union spokeswoman. U.S. authorities made a rare request for help from Europe over the weekend, asking for anything from diapers and baby formula to forklifts and veterinarian supplies.
More active-duty troops are joining the Hurricane Katrina relief effort than originally planned, and a senior commander said Monday they likely will be needed for months, not weeks. Although the Pentagon said Saturday that 2,500 soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division were being dispatched to the New Orleans area, a spokeswoman for the division said Monday that 4,700 would be there by today. Also going are combat and support forces from the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Corps Support Command at Fort Hood, Texas, plus about 2,000 Marines. The Pentagon originally said the 1st Cavalry was sending 2,700 soldiers, but division spokesman Capt. George Lewis said Monday that 1,700 were going, plus 100 support troops. Thus the total for active-duty ground forces would be about 8,500, up from the 7,200 announced Saturday. Twenty-one Navy ships also are participating, including the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman off the coast of Mississippi.
The nation's top health official declared a public health emergency in Texas on Monday, saying it would speed up federal assistance as the state tries to accommodate almost 240,000 refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt made the announcement after touring shelters on the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. He also thanked Texas for quickly stepping up to help in Katrina's aftermath. "'One nation under God' -- that phrase has new meaning to me," said Leavitt, former Utah governor. "It is one great nation, and it is nowhere better exemplified than in the outpouring of care, love, compassion and capacity than what I've seen in the state of Texas."
Source: Combined dispatches