President Bush dispatched more than 7,000 additional active duty troops to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast on Saturday as he vowed that more would be done to maintain order and bring relief in the aftermath of one of the nation's worst natural disasters.
"In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need," Bush said in a live radio broadcast. "And the federal government will do its part. Where our response is not working, we'll make it right."
Katrina, the 11th named storm of the six-month hurricane season that ends Nov. 30, will cause more than $100 billion in total economic losses, said Risk Management Solutions Inc., a consultant for the insurance industry. Standard & Poor's said yesterday that insured damages may be $50 billion, the most of any hurricane. Andrew in 1992 cost $43 billion after inflation.
Nagin said that Katrina has killed ``most likely thousands'' of people. That would make the hurricane the deadliest U.S. storm since one that swept through Galveston, Texas, in 1900, killing an estimated 8,000 to 12,000. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire killed 5,000 to 6,000.
Faced with stinging criticism that the government's efforts were initially weak and limited, Bush again acknowledged the response was "unacceptable" and promised more resources will be available. The Congress has passed a $10.5 billion in emergency funding, and Bush pledged that towns and cities decimated by the hurricane would be rebuilt.
"And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America," the president said.
Five days after the hurricane slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, conditions improved in parts of the city. More than 1,300 trucks carrying 17.1 million ready-to-eat meals were sent to the area, and law-enforcement officers have curtailed once-rampant looting, police said.
Some 21,000 National Guard troops already are on the ground in the affected region along with 4,000 active duty soldiers, but residents in a partially submerged and nearly lawless New Orleans remain in need.
Following is a transcript of the president's address:
The White House
September 3, 2005
President Addresses Nation, Discusses Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts
The Rose Garden
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Yesterday I saw the aftermath of one of the largest natural disasters ever to strike America. A vast coastline of towns and communities are flattened; one of our great cities is submerged. The human costs are incalculable.
In Biloxi I met Bronwynne Bassier and her sister, Kim. Bronwynne told me that the only earthly possessions she has left were the clothes on her back. I also met relief and rescue workers who are performing heroically in difficult circumstances. They've been working around the clock, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. Yet, despite their best efforts, the magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable.
During my visit I discussed these problems at length with Governor Riley of Alabama, Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Blanco of Louisiana and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans. Each state will have its own set of challenges and issues to solve. Yet all of us agree that more can be done to improve our ability to restore order and deliver relief in a timely and effective manner.
This morning I received a briefing on the latest developments on the ground. Right now there are more than 21,000 National Guard troops operating in Louisiana and Mississippi, and more are on the way. More than 13,000 of these troops are in Louisiana. The main priority is to restore and maintain law and order, and assist in recovery and evacuation efforts. In addition to these National Guard forces, the Department of Defense has deployed more than 4,000 active duty forces to assist in search and recovery, and provide logistical and medical support.
Hour by hour, the situation on the ground is improving. Yet the enormity of the task requires more resources and more troops. Today I ordered the Department of Defense to deploy additional active duty forces to the region. Over the next 24 to 72 hours, more than 7,000 additional troops from the 82nd Airborne, from the 1st Cavalry, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force will arrive in the affected areas. These forces will be on the ground and operating under the direct command of General Russ Honore.
Our priorities are clear: 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.
Yesterday I also signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package to fund our ongoing relief efforts. This is a down payment on what will be a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast. I want to thank the Congress for their quick, bipartisan action, and I look forward to working with them in the days and weeks ahead.
I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering. 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. Where our response is not working, we'll make it right. Where our response is working, we will duplicate it. 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.
This week we've 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's hard to imagine a bright future. But when you talk to the proud folks in the area, you see a spirit that cannot be broken.
The emergency along the Gulf Coast is ongoing; there's still a lot of difficult work ahead. All Americans can be certain our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to overcome this disaster. We will comfort and care for the victims. We will restore the towns and neighborhoods that have been lost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We'll rebuild the great city of New Orleans. And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America.
May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country.