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Archive for Sunday, October 16, 2005

Shelters largely cleared of Katrina’s displaced victims

October 16, 2005

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— Roughly 95 percent of some 270,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees were cleared from shelters around the nation by Saturday, the federal government's self-imposed deadline for emptying the evacuees.

But that relative success comes amid continued frustration.

As of Saturday afternoon, 14,468 people remained in shelters, according to officials.

"Our count is down to 439," said Chisholm Pothier, a Red Cross spokesman at the Cajundome arena and convention center in Lafayette. The facility once held more than 7,000 evacuees.

Considering that thousands of those still in shelters are likely evacuees from Hurricane Rita, which struck Louisiana and Texas on Sept. 24, authorities believe they have cleared out more than 95 percent of the Katrina evacuees.

Katrina displaced an estimated 1.5 million people when it struck Aug. 29. The shelter population peaked at about 273,000 in the days after the storm, according to FEMA. President Bush set a mid-October goal of emptying the shelters and FEMA officials adopted Oct. 15 as their deadline.

Still, Louisiana officials are unhappy with the pace.

"Moving people out of the shelters and into temporary housing has been a source of frustration for us," said Mark Smith, spokesman for Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness. "It is a monumental effort that FEMA has undertaken and we understand that effort is going to take time, but we had hoped it would come about quicker than it has."

Meanwhile, a trade association for apartment owners complains that the federal government is spending too much on hotels and isn't doing enough to let evacuees know about available apartments. An estimated 600,000 of Katrina's displaced were being lodged in hotels at a cost expected to reach as high as $425 million by Oct. 24.

Jeanne Delgado, of the National Multi Housing Council, said there were an estimated 100,000 units in Dallas and Houston.

FEMA said that's complicated, too, in part by Louisiana officials' desire to get evacuees closer to home, where there are far fewer housing units available.

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