Nation briefs 9/9/05

Friday, September 9, 2005

Cheney tours stricken area of Louisiana coast

NEW ORLEANS --Vice President Dick Cheney toured parts of the ravaged Louisiana coast Thursday, claiming significant progress but warning that much remains to be done. He defended the political appointees who are overseeing the federal relief effort against attacks by Democrats. Overall, Cheney issued an optimistic prognosis for recovery. "We'll get it done," he said after touring a devastated Gulfport, Miss. Cheney then flew here by helicopter, staying low and close to the ravaged coastline.

Airlift of Katrina evacuees still on hold for Missouri

ST. LOUIS -- State emergency management officials still don't know when Missouri might receive more of the masses people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A St. Louis Welcome Center at Lambert Airport and two facilities in Kansas City are prepared to take a total of 2,500 evacuees, but none was scheduled to arrive Thursday. "We're ready, but no one is coming in," said Susie Stonner, spokeswoman for the State Emergency Management Agency. "Volunteers are primed, ready to go. They're getting antsy." She said a regional office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Missouri, along with Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, are potential drop-off sites for hundreds of Hurricane Katrina survivors.

House passes $51 billion relief bill for victims

WASHINGTON -- Congress rushed to approve $51.8 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina on Thursday, and President Bush pledged the government would cut red tape to provide $2,000 each in disaster assistance to families and to make sure they continue receiving Medicaid, food stamps and other federal benefits. Flanked by members of his Cabinet, Bush asked for patience on the part of storm victims, and declared a national day of prayer and remembrance for Friday of next week. He spoke shortly before the House voted 410-11 to approve a large installment of recovery and relief funds. Senate approval was expected later in the day. On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders said they intended to boycott a proposed Republican-led congressional committee that is to investigate the administration's readiness and response to the storm.

Business at smaller ports picking up after Katrina

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The docks in Morehead City are booming this week, as longshoremen unload twice the amount of rubber that normally passes through the port. The same is true in Wilmington, where 12,000 tons of steel came off the boat Wednesday. The Port of Pensacola in Florida has increased cargo traffic by about 60 percent and companies are calling to see how much more steel, lumber and other products it can handle. Panama City, Fla., expects a 60 to 70 percent increase this year. None of those four ports rank in the country's top 40 by tonnage, but they are receiving cargo once headed for New Orleans or Pascagoula and Gulfport, Miss., before Hurricane Katrina swept through, damaging ports and forcing shippers to divert to docks elsewhere along the Gulf and East coasts. New Orleans is believed to be just weeks away from reopening, but there's no guess when the two Mississippi ports may again operate.

Hurricane Ophelia stalls off Florida coast

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Hurricane Ophelia stalled off Florida's Atlantic coast Thursday, churning up waves that caused beach erosion and forcing authorities to close a stretch of coastal road. The mile-long stretch of beachfront road in Flagler Beach was shut down so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders. Two shelters in Flagler County were being readied as a cautionary measure. In neighboring Volusia County, 12 people were already staying at the county's three shelters. Downpours from earlier storms had caused flooding in the county, raising anxiety levels about the effects of more rain.

-- From wire reports

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