Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Mississippi

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State government officials and relief organizations are trying to help the citizens of Mississippi recover from Hurricane Katrina. Some survivors, surveying the damage, are beginning to realize they have lost everything.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

In Mississippi, state officials say more than 100 people have died from Hurricane Katrina. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the region has suffered a catastrophic devastation. It may take a month to get power back to tens of thousands of people in Mississippi. Entire communities along the Gulf Coast are wiped out. Some of those who survived the storm are now coming to the grim realization that they may have lost everything. NPR's David Schaper reports from the state capital, Jackson.

DAVID SCHAPER reporting:

After touring the hardest hit-areas along the Mississippi Gulf Coast last night, an emotional Governor Haley Barbour told reporters the extent of the damage is indescribable, worse than anyone could imagine.

Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): The totality of the destruction, so many places where a home had been and there was nothing but a slab that looked like it had been swept with a broom. Just nothing. Nothing left. And it was block after block after block. And when you'd think it was going to run out, there'd be four or five damaged houses in three or four blocks, you thought, well, you'd kind of come to the end of it, then the next 15 blocks there'd be nothing.

SCHAPER: Barbour says efforts today focus on search and rescue as teams comb through the wreckage to look for survivors. He also says drinking water and ice is finally reaching some of the ravaged coastal areas and other critical supplies are on their way.

Unidentified Woman: Water?

Unidentified Man: Oh, all right. Yeah.

SCHAPER: At the Mississippi American Red Cross headquarters here in Jackson, volunteers yesterday unloaded food and other groceries from one truck and into smaller vans to deliver to shelters across central Mississippi. Volunteer Chuck Kaplan says the need, even 100 to 200 miles inland, is huge.

Mr. CHUCK KAPLAN (Volunteer): Everybody's out of water, food, power. This area we're standing in right now has nothing but occasional phone service. That's it. The water pressure's way down where you can't get a shower or anything, and it's going to be a minimum of two weeks before the power comes back. Gas stations are running out of gas and it's going to be two to three weeks before they can get resupplied.

(Soundbite of gas station activity)

SCHAPER: Many gas stations are closed because they don't have electricity. Those that are still open have very long lines all day and all night. I caught up to 30-year-old Mike Harmon just out side of Jackson after he had just pushed his small pickup truck to the pump.

So you're pushing your truck in?

Mr. MIKE HARMON (Resident): Yeah, I run out of gas waiting on fuel.

SCHAPER: How long you been waiting?

Mr. HARMON: An hour and fifteen minutes

SCHAPER: An hour and 15 minutes?

Mr. HARMON: Uh-huh. We started waiting back at the red light way up there.

SCHAPER: Power outages are widespread across the state. Utility officials say the problem isn't just that hundreds of miles of power lines are down, but that the entire infrastructure, including major transmission and distribution lines and power plants themselves, suffered significant damage. And it may take weeks, if not months, to fully restore power across the state. Meantime, people who fled the coastal areas are anxious to return, but state officials are restricting travel to the coast. Many roads are still full of debris and impassable, and communities are implementing curfews to try to limit looting. Fighting back tears, Governor Barbour said Hurricane Katrina will continue to be felt by the people of his state for years to come.

Gov. BARBOUR: It is hard. But I promise you the Mississippi Gulf Coast and all the rest of Mississippi will recover and then we'll rebuild. It'll take a while, it'll cost a lot, but we'll rebuild and the coast will be bigger and better than ever.

SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, in Jackson, Mississippi.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. DAY TO DAY will return in just a moment.

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