Bush Tours 'Hurting' Areas

President Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry walk away together after making a statement at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005. Bush was getting a personal look at Hurricane Rita's damage to U.S. energy resources while visiting Beaumont and Lake Charles, La., later in the day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

President Bush got a firsthand look Tuesday at Hurricane Rita's damage to U.S. energy resources in the birthplace of the modern oil industry. "Obviously, this area's hurting," Mr. Bush said. "I saw firsthand how it's hurting."

Mr. Bush immediately went into a briefing by state officials in Beaumont, the home to refineries that turn oil into gasoline, many of which were knocked out of power by the storm.

The president said the priorities were to assist people with food and water, restore power and provide fuel. "We fully understand that it's hard to maintain order if you don't have fuel for your cars and first responders," the president said, standing alongside Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Mr. Bush then went by helicopter to Lake Charles, La., where he surveyed damaged areas inland and along the coast. He observed several refineries, some functioning, others damaged, and also flew approximately a mile offshore, where Marine 1 circled what appeared to be a dormant oil rig, but without obvious signs of damage.

In other developments:

  • Testifying before a committee comprised solely of House Republicans, former FEMA director Michael Brown Tuesday blamed others for most of the government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

  • Texas Attorney General Greg Thomas is vowing to investigate aggressively price gouging in his state. Among the worst? "$15 for a gallon gasoline, sometimes $15 for a gallon water," Abbott told Robert Wood of CBS radio station KRLD.

  • Residents were returning to the Algiers neighborhood of reopening of New Orleans and businesses were reopening on Bourbon Street, despite a curfew, limited services and no critical care hospital services.

    While Brown was blasting Louisiana's Democratic governor on Capitol Hill, Mr. Bush praised Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

    "I appreciate the planning that the governor's put into this. The state of Texas took precautions before the storm hit, and is now responding, and our job is to work with the state," President Bush said.

    Residents of the Texas refinery towns hit hardest by Hurricane Rita were blocked from returning to their homes Tuesday because of the danger of debris-choked streets, downed power lines and a shortage of ice and generators.

    Damage to the small, rural towns of Jasper, Port Arthur and Orange was virtually complete — and the storm was being blamed for new deaths long after it moved away.

    As temperatures climbed well into the 90s again Tuesday, local authorities begged the federal and state governments for help.

    "East Texas needs everyone's attention this hour, right now, and it doesn't matter whether it's the state or FEMA or the Corps of Engineers. I don't really care whose fault it is. It needs help now," said Rep. Kevin Brady. "These communities are the last to complain, but they've reached the end."

    The number of deaths rose to nine Monday when the bodies of five people were discovered in a Beaumont apartment. A man, his girlfriend's three children and their aunt apparently were overcome by carbon monoxide from a generator they used to power fans to cool their home.
    • Scott Benjamin

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