Coping In Disaster Areas

President George W. Bush holds a bouquet upon his arrival at Chaklala airbase in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, March 3, 2006. Mr. Bush arrived for talks on the "war on terror", hours after a strike led by Islamic hardliners and angry protests against his first visit to the country.
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Federal workers and Red Cross volunteers are preparing to help displaced residents return to their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.

President Clinton is releasing $528 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so they can help victims of Hurricane Floyd. The president has also declared an emergency in Virginia and named North Carolina a major disaster area.

James Lee Witt, the director of FEMA, says that individual assistance for people who have been impacted by Hurricane Floyd and public assistance has been approved by President Clinton for North Carolina.

FEMA began doing damage assessment Thursday, and a national emergency response team was working with the state of North Carolina.

"One of the most important things in putting protective measures in and getting debris out of the way so they can get power on," Witt says.

Over 13,000 Red Cross workers were deployed this week to provide emergency assistance.

Those who sought shelter should take precautions before returning to devastated areas, reports CBS This Morning Health Contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy, who is also Red Cross national president.

Residents are advised not return to home until local officials confirm it is safe to do so, she said.

"Clearly they are at risk of downed power lines, even traffic stoplights that are out," she said. "If there has been flooding, one has to worry about electric currents and one has to worry about gas leaks."

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Wearing protective clothing and heavy boots will protect residents from rodents and snakes that may have entered disaster areas. Those who have septic tanks and well water risk contamination from damaged sewage lines, Dr. Healy added.

"That's one of the worst risks as people go back," she said "It is important to make sure you boil that water a full minute and that you also, if you have well water, make sure it's tested. E. coli and other bacteria can get into that water system and cause unnecessary illness."


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Flooding in Ft. Washington, PA.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a problem many residents will face. Red Cross workers will assist families by providing mental health services to families who need it, Dr. Healy said.

"As people go back into these disasters, first there is happiness that they survived it, but then there can be depression. It can affect the whole family. This is a family problem. This is depression that can last up to a year," she said.

For more information call the Disaster Relief Fund at 1-800-HELPNOW or 1-800-257-7565 (Spanish). To find information on the internet, visit www.redcross.org.