Bush Speech Details Aid Programs for Gulf Region

President Bush shook hands with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

President Bush shook hands with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as he arrived aboard the USS Iwo Jima in New Orleans Thursday. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

President Bush proposes what many are calling the biggest bailout for a region in national history as the federal government moves to help repair the extensive damage inflicted on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

In an address to the nation from New Orleans Thursday evening, the president outlined a massive reconstruction plan to restore areas devastated by the hurricane and the flooding that followed. He touched on areas from rebuilding water and electrical systems to mail delivery and simplified procedures to attain federal help.

The president's remarks follow pointed criticisms from the Gulf Coast and around the country over the failings of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid victims of the storm quickly. President Bush's approval ratings are at their lowest point of his tenure.

While acknowledging the failings of the federal response, Bush went on to praise police and medical personnel — as well as members of the Coast Guard — who helped saved lives and comfort survivors in the days after Katrina.

Bush expressed gratitude for the work of relief personnel, citing progress made in restoring power and clean water that had lacked it for days or even weeks. He also promised the U.S. government would see them through the rebuilding, saying, "We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities, and their lives." "This great city will rise again," Bush said.

President Bush spoke from Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter, with the city's main cathedral and a statue of Andrew Jackson behind him. The speech came on the same day New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin laid out a plan to allow some New Orleans residents to return to their homes, beginning Monday.

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