Katrina Web Log


This Web log on Hurricane Katrina's aftermath is designed to help readers stay up-to-date on the various strands of this developing story. NPR.org will update this page throughout the day.

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September 1, 2005

Hastert Softens Comments on New Orleans

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is backing away from comments he made Wednesday in a suburban Chicago newspaper suggesting that instead of rebuilding New Orleans after massive flooding, "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

Hastert came under fire from Sen. Mary Landrieu and other Louisiana Democrats shortly after his comments appeared in the Daily Herald Thursday. In the Arlington Heights, Ill., paper, Hastert said that "it doesn't make sense" to spend billions of federal dollars rebuilding a city that's seven feet below sea level.

In his new statement, Hastert said he was not advocating that New Orleans be abandoned or relocated, but rather that the city be rebuilt to ensure the protection of its inhabitants.

Hastert has endorsed $10 billion in emergency federal funds that Congress is expected to enact in an emergency session.

10:26 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Thousands Complain of Gas Gouging

Complaints are pouring in to an Energy Dept. hotline set up to monitor gas price gouging.

The states with the most complaints: Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, New Jersey, Michigan and South Carolina.

MORE: South's Gas Supply Begins to Choke

9:45 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Texas Takes In Thousands of Survivors

Some 4,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees are now in the Astrodome, with many more expected to arrive into the night. Texas officials have said they will house up to 50,000 evacuees -- 25,000 in San Antonio and 25,000 in Dallas.

More than 20,000 survivors of the Hurricane Katrina disaster have either already arrived or are on the way to the state.

9:25 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

International Offers of Help

Many foreign countries, both allies and antagonists, are offering aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the organization is ready to provide disaster relief if it is needed.

8:53 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

For Thousands, A Long Wait to Leave New Orleans

In New Orleans, disaster-weary people are boarding buses at the Superdome bound for Houston's Astrodome. At the same time, NPR's Mike Pesca reports, thousands of people are gathered on a section Interstate 10 in New Orleans also awaiting evacuation. Many are boarding buses they believe are bound for Houston, but the buses end up heading somewhere else, many to Dallas-Fort Worth.

At one point, Pesca says, a large caravan of buses that was supposed to be going to the Superdome to evacuate people took a wrong turn and ended up at the I-10 staging site. They drove right by the crowd, causing great disappointment.

One man waiting to evacuate told Pesca about his ordeal over the past couple of days. As the waters rose he climbed to his attic. A small boat arrived to give aid. He deferred to his neighbors waiting on their roof, hoping the boat would return. It did and carried him to dry ground. He made his way to a church where he slept Tuesday night. The past two nights he spent on the campus of the University of New Orleans. The man admits entering a store to get some dry clothes, but says he took only what he needed, unlike some other folks. Finally he was helicoptered to the I-10 staging area. He says he has no idea where he'll end up.

--John Ydstie

6:22 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Chertoff Defends Federal Response

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff says there's a "significant" and growing National Guard presence in New Orleans. "There is, I think going to be, more than adequate law enforcement presence in New Orleans," Chertoff tells NPR's Robert Siegel.

About 7,400 National Guard members are assigned to post-hurricane duty in Louisiana, including 2,800 in New Orleans, according to Chertoff. He said thousands more will be added in coming days along with federal and local law enforcement personnel from around the country.

He also defended efforts to get food, water and other supplies to refugees in New Orleans. Flooding has made parts of the city "very difficult to get to," Chertoff says. "If you can't get through the city, you can't deliver supplies."

He says supplies have been placed in several locations, and people need to make their way to distribution points to get them.

MORE: U.S. Aid Effort Criticized in New Orleans, Looting, Snipers Mar New Orleans Evacuation

5:56 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Colleges Offer to Help Displaced Students

As many as 100,000 college students in the New Orleans region have been affected by Hurricane Katrina, the American Council on Education says. Nearly three dozen universities in the area are seriously damaged. Thousands of students affected by Katrina were forced to improvise on their fall-semester plans. Many are inquiring about taking classes elsewhere. Dozens of colleges around the country say they will help displaced students enroll.

5:34 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Bush Urges Fuel Conservation Amid Shortages

Amid gasoline shortages in several parts of the country, President Bush is asking Americans to be "prudent in use of energy during the course of the next few weeks." Mr. Bush said Thursday, "Don't buy gas it you don't need it."

Damage to refineries and pipelines caused by Hurricane Katrina cut off supplies to the already tight energy market. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina encouraged residents not to drive anywhere this weekend. Some retailers in those states temporarily ran out of gas. Long lines of motorists waiting to fill up also formed at gas stations in Wisconsin, Arizona and West Virginia. Prices have spiked by as much a 50 cents a gallon in some areas of the country. It is now commonplace to find gas at more than $3 a gallon.

President Bush had lunch with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to discuss the situation. The president said the shortages and price spikes are a temporary disruption caused by the storm. Mr. Bush cited several steps taken by the government to ease the problem, including waiving U.S. fuel requirements so that different grades of gasoline can move more easily around the country and be imported from abroad.

--John Ydstie

5:29 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Grim Reports from New Orleans Hospitals

A patient of the United Medical Rehabilitation Hospital is unloaded from a boat.
A patient of the United Medical Rehabilitation Hospital is unloaded from a boat after being rescued from the flooded hospital in New Orleans, Aug. 31, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

Disturbing reports out of several hospitals in New Orleans suggest the situation there is grim.

According to a spokesperson at Tenet Healthcare, only one out of its five hospitals in New Orleans is up and running. The rest are closed or are being evacuated. That includes Meadowcrest Hospital, which has a working generator, but is being cleared following an attempted hijacking of a supply truck.

Joanne Silberner, NPR's health policy correspondent, reports that a text message sent from inside Tenet's Memorial Medical Center suggests that the hospital has had no contact with outside authorities, and nine people have died already. And outside calls aren't going through to Charity Hospital or Tulane University Hospital.

Meanwhile, 28 hospitals in far northwestern Louisiana -- outside the region directly hit by Hurricane Katrina -- are ready to receive patients from New Orleans, but few have arrived. Air evacuations of the sick at the New Orleans Superdome were suspended Thursday after shots were fired at ambulance helicopters.

5:19 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

People 'Living Like Animals' at Convention Center

Evacuees wait in vain outside the convention center in New Orleans.
New Orleans evacuees wait in vain outside the convention center for transportation out of the city, Sept. 1, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

As New Orleans evacuates the Superdome, NPR's John Burnett describes a "desperate" situation for storm refugees at the nearby convention center.

"There are, I estimate, 2,000 people living like animals inside the city convention center and around it," Burnett says. "They've been there since the hurricane. There's no food. There's absolutely no water, there's no medical treatment. There's no police and no security. And there are two dead bodies lying on the ground and in a wheelchair beside the convention center -- both elderly people, both covered with blankets now."

The refugees feel abandoned by the city and they are desperate, Burnett adds. Officials from various local, state and federal agencies have been blaming each other for the lack of response. The refugees "keep being told things and nothing ever happens for them," Burnett says.

MORE: Looting, Snipers Mar New Orleans Evacuation, U.S. Aid Effort Criticized in New Orleans

4:56 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Congress Returning to Approve Emergency Aid

Congress will reconvene from its summer recess as early as Thursday night or Friday to pass emergency aid legislation for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Lawmakers reportedly will be asked to approve some $10 billion for the relief effort.

The move comes amid reports of deteriorating conditions in New Orleans. Mayor Ray Nagin delivered a statement to CNN which he referred to as a "desperate SOS." Nagin says he's running out of resources, particularly to aid crowds gathered at the city's convention center. Televised images showed pictures of two dead bodies outside the convention center -- one in a wheelchair covered by a blanket, the other lying wrapped in a white sheet.

Earlier today, White House spokesman Scott McClellan deflected questions from reporters asking whether the officials should have been better prepared to deal with the disaster. McClellan said now was not the time for "finger-pointing."

--John Ydstie

3:56 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Telethons to Raise Funds for Storm Victims

Jazz singer Harry Connick Jr., a native of New Orleans, will headline a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. It will be broadcast at 8 p.m. EDT Friday on NBC and its cable subsidiaries, CNBC and MSNBC. Wynton Marsalis, another New Orleans native, and country music singer Tim McGraw will also perform. Connick told NBC's Today show that the city's residents are "freakishly strong." The entertainer also posted a statement on his Web site saying, "New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse, and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory."

In a separate effort, MTV Networks announced plans for a Sept. 10 telethon to raise funds for the Red Cross and other organizations. Performances by Usher, John Mellencamp, Green Day and other artists will air on MTV, VH1 and CMT. Jerry Lewis' annual Labor Day fundraiser will join in as well.

2:49 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Refugees Begin Arriving at Houston's Astrodome

Refugees from the New Orleans have been arriving at Houston's Astrodome since midnight. NPR's Robert Smith tells me the first arrivals came on a school bus, apparently commandeered by a young man who picked up people along the way. Other early arrivals flagged down cars and hitchhiked to Houston after hearing on the radio that the sports arena once called the 8th Wonder of the World was open to hurricane victims. Evacuees from the squalid conditions of the New Orleans Superdome are now arriving on chartered tour buses.

Smith says weary travelers are greeted by chilled air rushing out of the opened doors of the Astrodome. It's orderly inside -- cots all in rows , clean restrooms and the AC turned up high. One New Orleans refugee told Smith it's like the difference between heaven and hell.

The Astrodome will take 25,000 hurricane victims, San Antonio will take 25,000 and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) says Dallas will accept 25,000 more.

--John Ydstie

2:42 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

New Orleans Children's Hospital Patients Evacuated

Patients from New Orleans' Children's Hospital have been transported to a Kansas City medical center. Twenty-seven patients, ranging from a few months to 20 years old, arrived Wednesday night in Kansas City. Their ailments include asthma, leukemia and kidney disease, with conditions ranging from fair to critical, according to a spokesman for Children's Mercy Hospital of Kansas City. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) helped arrange for the Missouri Air National Guard to pick up the children in New Orleans.

2:37 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

A Gulfport Family Surveys the Damage

Faith Felth, with 1-year-old son Brendan
Faith Felth, with 1-year-old son Brendan. · Credit: Reuters

One family in Gulfport, Miss., gave NPR producer Gisele Grayson and reporter Kathy Lohr a tour of their ravaged home yesterday. Days earlier, water swamped the first floor of Faith and Carl Felth's house.

Tree limbs, baseballs, siding, seashells and even a jellyfish littered the floor after the waters receded. An infant's casket from a nearby funeral home rested in the living room. Faith Felth had brought it inside, unable to bear seeing it heaped with debris in the yard.

MORE: Read Gisele Grayson's Report

2:24 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Fats Domino Missing in New Orleans

R&B legend Fats Domino was missing Thursday, days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, according to his long-time agent Al Embry. Embry told The Associated Press that he hadn't been able to contact the 77-year-old Domino since talking to him Sunday evening by phone. Domino had told Embry that he planned to stay at his house in New Orleans' low-lying 9th Ward with his wife, Rosemary, and their daughter.

2:16 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

New Orleans 'Fighting for Its Life'

Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial pleads for the Bush administration to "put every available federal resource" into aiding hurricane survivors and evacuating the city before more lives are lost. "This great American city -- a great cultural city -- is fighting for its life right now," Morial, now the president of the National Urban League, tells NPR's Ed Gordon. "This is an event of Biblical proportions."

Still, Morial expresses confidence in New Orleans' long-term prospects, saying, "The city must rebuild, and it will rebuild." He also appealed to the nation to open its doors and hearts to the refugees from the storm, who will need shelter, clothing and food for months.

MORE: Interview: Former Mayor Marc Morial

2:09 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

Predicting the Unthinkable: More Gulf Hurricanes

Victims of Hurricane Katrina may be forced to brace for the unthinkable: another hurricane. Some forecasters warn there is the likelihood of up to three more named hurricanes for 2005. The hurricane season traditionally ends at the end of November.

Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday, says scientists believe that there has been a period of intensifying hurricane activity since 1995. Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic Ocean are both well above normal. Also, average hurricane wind speeds have increased an estimated 50 percent in the past 50 years -- all indicators of giant, powerful hurricanes in the future.

2:02 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

U.S. Utilities Dispatch Crews to Gulf Coast

Utilities from around the country are sending crews to the Gulf Coast, but power remains out for millions of people. The New York Times has a roundup today.

Here are highlights from that story and others around the country:

  • In Louisiana, Entergy said that 1.1 million of its customers were without power Wednesday. With an estimated 150 substations destroyed or damaged, power had been restored to only 200,000 customers as of late Wednesday.
  • Another 1 million customers were without service in Mississippi Wednesday, according the Clarion-Ledger, and again it will be weeks before power is full restored.
  • In Alabama, the number of customers without power stands at 330,000, down from 500,000 according to The Associated Press.
  • In Florida, electrical service has been restored to more than 96 percent of the 1,453,000 customers left without power by Hurricane Katrina, but the state faces further power problems. The St. Petersburg Times reports that a significant share of Florida's electricity is generated by natural gas from the Gulf. Consumers across the state are being asked to conserve electricity to avoid outages.
  • 1:49 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Red Cross Readies for Large Relief Effort

    A regional Red Cross center coordinating relief efforts for Louisiana's hurricane victims has been set up in Houston. The organization is trying to send volunteers into areas ravaged by the storm, where they face some serious challenges -- a lack of electricity and shortage of communications and law enforcement. The entire relief effort could cost well above $130 million, making it the largest effort in Red Cross history.

    The first busload of survivors who took refuge at the Superdome in New Orleans arrived at the Houston Astrodome Thursday, where air conditioning, cots, food and showers awaited them. "We are going to do everything we can to make people comfortable," says Red Cross spokeswoman Margaret O'Brien-Molina. "Places have to be found for these people. Many of these people may never be able to rebuild."

    1:36 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Gas Prices Spike Amid Fears of Shortages

    Nakita Meeks stands in line at a drug store to buy items in Biloxi, Miss.
    A flooded Conoco Phillips refinery near New Orleans, Aug. 31, 2005. · Credit: Reuters

    Oil is hovering near $69 a barrel today, down from record highs of over $70 earlier in the week. The price seems to have stabilized a bit since President Bush made stocks from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve available to refiners unable to get crude elsewhere. But the price of gasoline is now over $100 a barrel, because refineries in the Gulf Coast region remain shut down.

    The disruptions have caused a run on gas stations in a number of states, including Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina and West Virginia. Jan Vineyard, executive director of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocer Association, told The Associated Press: "People have kind of panicked, and they're waiting in long lines because they're afraid the prices are going to go up. We're going to have some outages."

    In many parts of the country, the price at the pump has breached $3 a gallon. Gas prices jumped by more than 50 cents a gallon Wednesday in Ohio and Illinois, 40 cents in Georgia and 30 cents in Maine. In southwest Alabama, gas lines of 100 cars were commonplace early Thursday.

    According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, 91 percent of crude production in the Gulf is shut down, along with 83 percent of natural gas output. Twenty oil rigs or platforms are missing in the Gulf.

    --John Ydstie

    MORE: Gas Prices Rise Sharply; Bush to Tap Reserves

    1:08 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Refugees Consumed by Questions

    New Orleans residents who escaped from Katrina's devastation now face a host of questions they can't answer, says Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose. Rose and his immediate family are staying with friends in Baton Rouge, La., where his paper has temporarily set up shop. He's consumed with doubts about what might have happened to his friends, worried about the future of his city and uncertain about when he'll be able to go home again.

    MORE: Commentary: Safe but Worried for Family after Katrina

    12:09 p.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Texas Will Accept More Louisiana Refugees

    Texas has agreed to take in 25,000 hurricane refugees from Louisiana and house them in San Antonio. That's in addition to the 25,000 or so refugees now being moved into the Astrodome in Houston, mostly from the Superdome in New Orleans. A spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry says Texas officials are still working out a timetable for the move and where the evacuees will be sheltered.

    11:59 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Military to Boost Personnel in Gulf Coast

    The U.S. military plans to more than double the number of National Guard troops on duty in Louisiana and Mississippi, from a combined 7,400 to more than 18,000, by Friday. Officials say the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier, was headed to the Gulf Coast Thursday to serve as a floating command center for hurricane relief efforts. It joins six other military ships already on their way or in the region.

    However, there will be no large-scale shifting of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to help with disaster relief, a U.S. Central Command spokesman says. Top military officials are reportedly exploring ways to bring individual troops home to take care of families in need without altering the balance of forces in the war zones.

    11:54 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Bush, Former Presidents to Speak at 3 p.m. EDT

    President Bush and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton will address the nation at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday about hurricane relief. The two former presidents will head up a national fundraising drive for relief efforts in what is being called an urgent sequel to their efforts earlier in the year after the Asian tsunami.

    NPR's Don Gonyea reports that Mr. Bush will have lunch Thursday with Alan Greenspan and then meet with his economic advisers to assess the impact on the economy. The president's chief economist, Ben Bernanke, told CNBC Wednesday that he believes Katrina's impact on the overall economy would be "fairly modest." But with gas prices surging, commerce crippled in ports along the Gulf of Mexico and insurers predicting record outlays, many economists are saying this could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. It could threaten to slow what has been a steadily expanding economy.

    MORE: Bush to Tour Gulf Coast on Friday, U.S. Economy May Feel Katrina's Impact

    11:45 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    New Orleans in Chaos Amid Evacuation

    Efforts to evacuate New Orleans continued Thursday, even as looting, shootings and other crimes gripped the city. State police say they've now re-established communications throughout the city. Mayor Ray Nagin ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts and focus instead on stopping the increasingly brazen thieves.

    A police officer was shot trying to stop looters on Wednesday, and a National guardsman was shot and wounded at the Superdome. Still, NPR's Greg Allen reports that conditions at the sports arena, where an operation to evacuate thousands of refugees is currently under way, is running more smoothly than in other parts of New Orleans.

    Authorities are also evacuating people from nine hospitals in the city, a process expected to take at least another day. Nagin has called for a total evacuation of New Orleans. He says the city has become uninhabitable for the 50,000 to 100,000 people who stayed behind after residents were ordered to leave over the weekend, before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast with 145-mph winds.

    Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said that thousands of people in New Orleans may have died. However, authorities are still conducting search-and-rescue missions, and a final count of the dead may be weeks away. At this point, death toll estimates are largely based on anecdotal reports from rescuers who say they've seen bodies on rooftops.

    MORE: Officials Work to Restore Order in New Orleans

    11:20 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Katrina Refugees Face Gas Shortages

    Gasoline shortages are becoming a problem in Jackson, Miss., a full 150 miles north of New Orleans. NPR's David Schaper told me about an extended family of refugees from New Orleans -- sisters, grandmothers, boyfriends, nieces and nephews -- trying desperately to make their way to relatives in Texas. But they can't find gas for their three-car caravan.

    Right after the storm, there was no power to run the pumps at most stations. As electricity returned, cars would line up and pump the stations dry. Schaper says he saw one unlucky driver running on fumes, who pulled up to the pump just as the station ran out. The car promptly sputtered and died.

    Tempers are flaring, Schaper says, especially when people fill up their cars and then pull out gas cans to take an extra measure. Some stations in Jackson have imposed $20 limits on gasoline purchases.

    --John Ydstie

    11:17 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Victims, Families Seek Information on the Web

    Web site

    People affected by Hurricane Katrina are turning to Web sites and blogs run by the media as well individuals to search for information about missing loved ones. Craigslist, a site that hosts classified ads and online chats in cities around the country, saw a 300-percent increase in use of its New Orleans section on Wednesday, says CEO Jim Buckmaster.

    Many of the postings are offering temporary housing to those left homeless by Katrina. The hurricane left most radio, TV stations and newspaper operations in New Orleans under water. The Times-Picayune had no print edition for three days, but the newspaper and most other media outlets have continued to operate on the Web.

    MORE: Seeking Katrina News, Citizens Turn to Web

    10:50 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Houston Readies Astrodome for Refugees

    Refugees from Hurricane Katrina arrive Thursday at the Houston Astrodome, 350 miles away from New Orleans. Officials are bracing for about 25,000 refugees from the Louisiana Superdome.

    FEMA, the Red Cross and local governments are preparing the Houston arena with capabilities for a nursery, health care, food and entertainment. Refugees will sleep on cots on the playing floor. Houston Mayor Bill White says it's not certain how long the refugees will call the Astrodome home.

    MORE: Refugees Trek to Houston Astrodome

    10:44 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Bush to Tour Gulf Coast on Friday

    President Bush will get a closer look at the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast on Friday. The White House announced that Mr. Bush would survey the hardest-hit places by helicopter and then visit a few areas on the ground. On Wednesday, Air Force One flew over the region as the president returned to Washington from his Texas ranch.

    The White House also said that two former presidents, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, will lead a private fund-raising campaign to help victims recover. This is much the same role President Bush asked his predecessors to play in the in the wake of the tsunami earlier this year.

    MORE: Bush Taps Former Leaders for Katrina Aid Drive

    10:28 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Chaos Hampers Superdome Evacuation

    The evacuation of the New Orleans Superdome slowed Thursday morning after shots were reported fired at a military helicopter and arson fires broke out outside the arena. Authorities suspended airlifts taking sick people out of the sports center. However, the National Guard says the able-bodied are still being moved by buses.

    The scene at the Superdome was chaotic, as thousands of people from nearby hotels and buildings flocked to the site in hopes of boarding buses taking evacuees from the area. But the fires outside prevented buses from getting close enough to pick up people. The National Guard is sending 100 military police officers to restore some semblance of order.

    MORE: Shots Fired, Halting Superdome Evacuation

    10:15 a.m. EDT | Sept. 1, 2005 | permalink

    Compiled from NPR News sources and The Associated Press

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