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September 29, 1998

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FEMA Director James Lee Witt has told me that we are already assisting in the clean up effort, and will be there every step of the way to help families and communities to rebuild.

-- President Bill Clinton

Today, President Clinton meets with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director James Lee Witt to discuss the damage caused by Hurricane Georges and the continuing efforts of the federal government to bring relief and help to communities affected by the storm.

A Dangerous and Deadly Hurricane. Hurricane Georges, the seventh named storm of the hurricane season, formed twelve days ago, devastating the islands of the northern Caribbean, including the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Four days ago, the hurricane approached the Florida Keys, with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour, creating storm surges of six feet, and along with high winds, caused extensive damage to homes and roads, snapped power lines, and interrupted electrical power. After moving west, Hurricane Georges traveled through the Gulf of Mexico and toward the coastline of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Georges made landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi this morning, with rainfall of at least 15 inches predicted along the coastline. Widespread flooding, flash floods, high winds, severe storm warnings and numerous tornadoes have been reported in Alabama and Louisiana.

Presidential Action In A Time Of Need. President Clinton has moved decisively to ensure that those areas most affected by the hurricane receive immediate assistance from the federal government:

  • The President has declared States of Emergency in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and Major Disasters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The President's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to relieve the hardship and suffering caused by the disaster on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety;
  • FEMA's Emergency Support Team (EST), has been on highest activation levels this week, working around the clock to coordinate regional activities and movements of teams, personnel, supplies and equipment into mobilization centers where citizens are seeking shelter. EST is also managing regular conferences between the National Hurricane Center, regional and state offices, and responding agencies;
  • More than 2,000 federal personnel have been deployed to handle the aftermath of Hurricane Georges;
  • Delivery of relief supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is being coordinated from the U.S. Naval Station at Roosevelt Roads;
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing 1.25 million sandbags for flood fighting operations;
  • Over 27 federal agencies are working together to aid the recovery efforts of communities impacted by this damaging storm.

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