Bush Tours Hurricane-Ravaged Gulf Coast

President Bush made stops in Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss. and New Orleans, La. Friday as he inspected the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina and talked with victims and rescuers about the situation, which some local officials say is desperate.

Mr. Bush took a helicopter tour of New Orleans Thursday afternoon, getting a birds eye view of the flooding and the fires, but not the frustration of the tens of thousands of residents who remain stranded in the city, four days after the hurricane struck.

“I know the people in this part of the world are suffering,” Mr. Bush said, “and I want them to know there’s a flow of progress.”

“I know that some of the folks in outlying parishes are wondering whether people are paying attention to them,” Mr. Bush said. “We are.”

“This is a devastating storm that’s going to require immediate action now,” Mr. Bush said.

“I want you to know that I’m not going to forget what I’ve seen,” he said. “I understand the devastation requires more than one day’s attention.”

“This is one of the worst natural disasters we have faced with national consequences,” Mr. Bush said, “and therefore there will be a national response.”

Mr. Bush said the damage along the Gulf Coast is "worse than imaginable."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush walked through a Biloxi, Miss., neighborhood hit hard by Katrina, consoling two sobbing women along the way.

Mr. Bush also acknowledged criticism of the government's actions after the storm, saying he's satisfied with the response but not the results.

He stood next to the governors of Mississippi and Alabama while saying the government has a responsibility to "clean up this mess” and he specifically vowed to bring order back to New Orleans.

First Lady Laura Bush, meanwhile, was in Lafayette, La. Thursday to meet with refugees and to thank volunteers for their efforts in the wake of the hurricane.

She urged those who fled the coast to enroll their children in school as soon as possible, wherever they are now.

“It’s really important for parents to let their kids keep going to school, “ Mrs. Bush said.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. House followed the Senate in approving a $10.5 billion bill to cover immediate rescue and relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Mr. Bush, speaking in Mobile, called the measure a down payment on what he says will be a long recovery.

The legislation comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency is spending more than half a billion dollars a day in the aftermath of Katrina.

Mr. Bush also declared a state of emergency for Texas Friday, which will make federal dollars available for relief assistance for refugees seeking shelter in the Lone Star State.

Some estimates place the number of hurricane survivors in Texas at as high as 200,000.

"In Texas, we are opening our hearts, homes, and facilities for victims of Hurricane Katrina,” Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, said Friday.

“The federal government has a responsibility to help communities in Texas who are generously helping others during this time of national tragedy," Edwards said.


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