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Volume 71, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 6, 2005

News

Houston houses evacuees

By Tina Maria Macias
The Daily Cougar

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last week, devastating areas of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, thousands were left without homes.

But Houston and other areas of Texas have now opened their arms to evacuees from the area affected by the storm.

"We appreciate Houston's help -- everybody's help," University of New Orleans business management junior Aisha Briscoe said.

As of Monday, the death toll was at 235 -- two in Alabama, 11 in Florida, two in Georgia, 59 in Louisiana and 161 in Mississippi -- the Associated Press reported.

Louisiana officials expect the death toll to go into the thousands once they begin pulling bodies out of buildings and streets, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Most who lived in areas hit by the hurricane were able to get out before being injured.

"We live in a suburb of New Orleans. It took us 9-and-a-half hours to get to Baton Rouge, and it's 70 miles away. We spent the night in Baton Rouge and the next day, we came (to Houston)," Pete Serio said, while he helped his daughter, Jennifer, complete an application to UH. "We're very lucky our house is OK."

Nearly 240,000 people -- about half the population of Fort Worth -- have poured into Texas since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, creating a need for massive storm aid around the country, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Gov. Rick Perry's aides said the governor had offered to take 75,000, but the number has swollen to 139,000 housed in 137 shelters across Texas, with another 100,000 people staying in hotels, the Chronicle reported.

"We are going to host a family through Exxon Mobile," painting junior Emily Wetteraver said. "It blows my mind how many people this has affected."

Perry announced last Wednesday that Texas would house 25,000 in the Reliant Astrodome. But the Astrodome's capacity for evacuees was far below what Perry had offered, so Mayor Bill White had to order other facilities opened to house people.

There are now about 27,000 evacuees at Reliant Park -- Reliant Arena, Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome -- and George R. Brown Convention Center, the Chronicle reported. 

They could now be headed for longer-term housing within two weeks, and most will be out of the Houston facilities within months, local and county officials announced Sunday.

State officials are talking with American, Continental and Southwest airlines to coordinate an airlift, moving some storm victims to other states beginning this week. 

But details have yet to be finalized, so people should not just show up at an airport expecting to be put on a plane, the Chronicle reported Perry's office as saying.

With additional reporting by Eleanor Benmenashe.
 

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