Bush Asks for Donations to Relieve Tornado-Stricken States

March 3, 2007 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

By Jay Newton-Small Bloomberg.com

March 3 (Bloomberg) — President George W. Bush asked Americans to contribute to the Red Cross and other relief agencies to aid tornado-stricken southern states during a visit to Alabama and Georgia to view storm damage.

“This storm is a tough storm, eight miles affected, a lot of lives,” Bush told reporters in Alabama. He promised federal aid for Alabama after an aerial tour of damage to Coffee County, where a tornado knocked down sections of a high school in the town of Enterprise, killing eight students inside, and at least 700 houses were damaged or destroyed.

At least 20 people were killed, including a seven-year-old girl who had been seeking shelter with her family, when as many as 29 tornadoes swept through Alabama, Georgia and Missouri on March 1. The storms were spawned by a weather system that stretched from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service said.

“You can never heal a heart but you can provide comfort,” Bush said today in Alabama, where he declared a “major disaster” exists.

The federal, state and local response is an example of the “new” Federal Emergency Management Agency, which came under fire for its handling of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, David Paulison, FEMA director, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Alabama.

The New FEMA

“The system that we used in the past, waiting for a local community to get overwhelmed before a state steps in and waiting for the state to get overwhelmed before the federal government steps in, doesn’t work,” Paulison said. “We have to go as partners. That’s what we’re going to be doing.”

Paulison said he will use today’s trip to personally determine whether either state will qualify for federal assistance. He has had teams on the ground since the tornadoes hit and FEMA has already moved truckloads of ice, water, food, communications equipment and plastic siding into place, Paulison said.

FEMA’s preliminary assessment of the damage in Alabama is almost finished and teams will start today to assess the devastation in Georgia. The process of deciding on federal aid should be “fairly quick” since Paulison is touring the damage personally, the director said.

Tornado Deaths

The March 1 storms nearly doubled the number of people who have been killed by tornadoes this year. Twenty-three people died from twisters in Louisiana and Florida in the last two months, the Storm Prediction Center said.

The trip was Bush’s second tour of storm damage this week. On March 1, he visited the Gulf Coast to get a progress report on the rebuilding effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina caused $40 billion to $60 billion in insured damages, the industry’s most expensive U.S. disaster, when it devastated the Gulf Coast and killed more than 1,200 people.

Bush was briefed on the tornado damage and telephoned Governors Bob Riley of Alabama and Matt Blunt of Missouri while he was aboard Air Force One returning from the Gulf Coast.

Bush started today with a briefing from Riley and Senator Jeff Sessions, both Alabama Republicans. The president is scheduled to talk later with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, all Georgia Republicans. He’ll then visit Americus, in southwest Georgia, where tornadoes devastated a hospital and a Red Cross center


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