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Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2005

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 15, 2005)


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, as the House considers the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, we have the opportunity to commend the men and women of the Coast Guard for their extraordinary achievements in response to Hurricane Katrina.

On Sunday, August 28, as soon as the hurricane passed over the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard launched into action. Battling winds that were still blowing at gale force, Coast Guard aircraft immediately began rescuing desperate survivors clinging to rooftops in flooded Gulf Coast coastal communities.

After the Hurricane hit the Gulf Coast and as the enormity of the disaster became apparent, every Coast Guard air station in the country began sending help--aircraft or crews or both--to the devastated areas to conduct search and rescue missions. The numbers speak for themselves: across the region, the Coast Guard saved or evacuated 33,500 people; one helicopter crew rescued 150 during a single shift on duty; another crew rescued 110.

In New Orleans alone, working day and night for seven days, Coast Guard helicopters saved close to 6,500 lives, 4,700 of them by hoisting people from their perilous perches up into helicopters. Coast Guard crews dodged debris, hacked through roofs and windows, and waded in filthy water to reach survivors.

Although Coast Guard facilities in the disaster area had been damaged by the storm and floods, and many Coast Guard men and women had lost their own homes, they pushed past all obstacles to carry out their mission.

It was not just the members of the air and rescue teams that made this extraordinary effort possible: mechanics worked tirelessly to service aircraft and send them back into the field as quickly as possible. Supply and logistics personnel worked around the clock to restore hurricane-damaged facilities to use. Auxiliary volunteers rallied to the call of duty. As the storm receded, assessments of oil spills and critical infrastructure began.

The Coast Guard's accomplishments shine all the brighter in contrast to FEMA's lethally slow response. There are many good men and women working for FEMA too, but they were hampered by weak, inexperienced, and ineffective leadership, and by the exodus over the past several years of many seasoned disaster relief experts who could no longer tolerate the disintegration of the agency.

With this legislation, we are building upon the strengths and successes of the Coast Guard. Thank you to Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen for taking over relief operations in the disaster area. Thank you to the men and women of the Coast Guard who responded to this disaster from all around the country, from Florida to Seattle, from Boston to my own city of San Francisco. With all our hearts, we thank you.


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