Texas Starts Airlift of Evacuees from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio to Other States
Gov. Perry: 'Every Evacuee Must Have a Safe Haven'
Gov. Rick Perry today directed state emergency management officials to begin initiating measures to airlift Hurricane Katrina evacuees to other states that have opened their hearts to the storm victims. The governor also began contacting other states to see if they can assist.
"As Texas provides food, shelter and medicine to more than 230,000 evacuees, we are concerned about our capacity to meet this great human need as thousands more arrive by the day," Perry said. "We want to make certain every evacuee has a safe haven where they can receive medical care, water, food and other assistance. Many states have generously offered to help provide relief, and with Texas nearing its shelter capacity we have begun contacting those states to take them up on their kind offer to provide additional support."
Texas is currently setting up two airlift operations in Houston and Dallas. Aid centers will be established at airports in those cities, where evacuees will be provided water, food and medical assistance before traveling to other states. The Texas National Guard will coordinate the air operation and the Texas Department of Public Safety will provide support services.
In addition West Virginia made three C-130 planes available to send to Texas to take evacuees to that state.
Arrangements also were being made to bring cruise ships to Galveston to help house Louisiana residents left homeless by the storm. Gov. Perry has recommended to FEMA that additional cruise ships be stationed in ports in Beaumont and Corpus Christi.
Perry also announced that the nation's three major airlines headquartered in Texas - American, Continental and Southwest Airlines - have agreed to help in the airlift operations.
Provisions are also being made to relocate some evacuees already in Texas where unsuitable overflow conditions may exist, including moving evacuees to Texas cities that have offered to help but haven't yet reached their capacity.
The Governors Division of Emergency Management is coordinating these airlift activities with other states and will continue to direct evacuees to Texas shelters where capacity is available.
During the past 72 hours, Gov. Perry and his staff have been in contact with many states, including Governors Huntsman of Utah, Henry of Oklahoma, Granholm of Michigan, Vilsack of Iowa, Pataki of New York, Manchin of West Virginia and Rendell of Pennsylvania about providing shelter for Louisiana evacuees.
State officials today estimated that more than 100,000 Louisiana residents are staying in hotels and motels across the state. Another 139,000 are being temporarily housed in 137 shelters throughout the state, including the Astrodome, Reliant Center and George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston; Reunion Arena in Dallas; and Kelly USA in San Antonio - the major shelters established to take in those evacuated from New Orleans. Many other Texas communities also were opening shelters for storm victims, including Tyler, Austin, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Bell County and El Paso. The estimates do not include spontaneous shelters established by houses of worship and private organizations, so the actual number of evacuees in Texas is likely much higher.
"We have initiated this airlift plan with the evacuees' best interests foremost in our hearts and minds," Perry said. "There are shelters set up in other states that are sitting empty while thousands arrive in Texas by the day, if not the hour. We are doing everything we can to address the needs of evacuees as they arrive, but in order to meet this enormous need, we need help from other states."
Perry also praised the Texas response, saying, "We have thousands of volunteers attending to the most basic needs of our neighbors in an outpouring of compassion that makes me proud to be a Texan. The response of city and county leaders, first responders and medical personnel, and houses of worship and private citizens has been heart-warming and critical to saving lives."