Tue, Sep 06, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Texas groans under weight of care

SANCTUARY Around 250,000 refugees from the areas devastated by Katrina have made their way to Texas, but the biggest cities are running out of room to house them


Zahira Sims, left, comforts her father, George, who she had been searching for since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, outside of Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday.


Strained by an influx of refugees without equal in modern US history, Texas struggled on Sunday to house about a quarter-million victims of Hurricane Katrina in shelters and hotel rooms and began organizing an emergency airlift to divert thousands more to other states.

Nearly a week after the storm flooded much of New Orleans and all but overwhelmed eastern Texas with evacuees and rescued survivors, efforts broadened to care for the injured and the needy. In Washington, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said 563 shelters holding 151,409 people had opened in 10 states.

One of the first flights on Sunday carried 149 evacuees from San Antonio, where 10,400 refugees were being housed in a former air base, a mall and a Levi Strauss plant, to the Arizona state fairgrounds in Phoenix. More than 3,300 others were expected, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano said.

In Austin, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry said Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia and Iowa offered to accept evacuees.

With Houston housing nearly 30,000 evacuees in the Astrodome area and at a downtown convention center, and 100,000 or more in hotel rooms and private residences, officials said the capacity to accept more people was dwindling, although they pledged that no one would be turned away.

Despite signs on Interstate 45 and other roads directing buses of evacuees away from Houston and toward Dallas and elsewhere, many continued to come to Houston and were accepted for processing.

In Orange, Texas, on the Louisiana border, Janie Johnson of the Red Cross said 809 people were at five shelters on Sunday, down from 1,000. Some have already found houses or apartments. The two school districts had enrolled 225 new students.

As Houston filled up, many evacuees were transported to Dallas, where officials said the convention center could handle 7,000 people. That capacity was reached on Sunday. Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said on Sunday that the city was at its saturation point.

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