Bush To Victims: 'Help Coming'

In this photo provided by the White House, President Bush speaks to members of the Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Recovery Aug. 31, 2005, shortly after returning from Crawford, Texas. AP

As President Bush said Thursday that thousands more victims of Hurricane Katrina still need to be rescued, a congressional aid said the U.S. Congress will reconvene from its summer recess Thursday evening or Friday to pass emergency legislation for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A congressional official says the administration will seek $10 billion aid as the first installment.

Mr. Bush earlier acknowledged the frustration of people who need food, water and shelter and are desperate for the federal government's massive relief effort to kick into high gear.

Already under criticism for his long vacation during wartime, the president moved quickly once returning to Washington to assert visible control over the relief effort, CBS News correspondent Bill Plante reports for the Early Show. Remembering that his father took a hit when people thought he didn't respond to Hurricane Andrew quickly enough, Mr. Bush set up a roster of eight U.S. ships, about 11,000 National Guard troops and units of the Army Corps of Engineers to assist hurricane recovery.

"I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday," Mr. Bush said in a live interview in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with ABC. "I understand the anxiety of people on the ground. ... So there is frustration. But I want people to know there's a lot of help coming."

President Bush urged a crackdown on looting and crime that has spread throughout New Orleans.

"I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this — whether it be looting, or price gouging at the gasoline pump, or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud," Mr. Bush said. "And I've made that clear to our attorney general. The citizens ought to be working together."

Bush, who spoke as tens of thousands of people were planned to be evacuated on buses from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston, more than 300 miles away, expressed sympathy for those still stranded.

"Thousands have been rescued, there are thousands more to be rescued," he said.

Mr. Bush also said: "I just can't imagine waving a sign that says 'Come and get me now.'"

Mr. Bush said he has not yet finalized plans to visit the areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama affected by the storm, but he is expected to go within days.

Parts of Louisiana seeing a wave of disaster response roll in have the feel of a war zone. CBS News correspondent John Roberts reports that adding to the state-sent armored vehicles, the Pentagon announced 10,000 National Guard troops are being sent in.

The cavalry is coming in, but only with boats. No water trucks or convoys of relief and medical supplies have been spotted, Roberts reports.

The new units brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the largest military response to a natural disaster.

The Pentagon plans tow send a broad contingent of ships, aircraft, trucks, medical support and other personnel to support federal agencies already providing aid to gulf region, including 60 helicopters to be used for search and rescue operations, damage assessment flights and the distribution of supplies.

  • Gina Pace

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