U.S. President George Bush has dropped plans to travel to his party's
national convention so he can focus on Hurricane Gustav. Delegates to the
convention, meanwhile, were turning their efforts toward putting together aid
packages for hurricane victims. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the convention
center in St. Paul, that Mr. Bush skipped the trip to Minnesota to get a first
hand look at preparations for the storm.
On the day he was scheduled to go to St. Paul to
address the opening day of the convention, the president instead flew toward the
Gulf coast. He went to his home state of Texas, about 600 kilometers west of the
spot where the hurricane made landfall in Louisiana, to check on preparations
for the storm.
The president got a briefing at an emergency operations
center in Austin, the Texas capital, and then traveled the short distance to San
Antonio, which three years ago served as a major destination for Gulf Coast
residents fleeing Hurricane Katrina. That storm devastated the city of New
Orleans and large swathes of the Gulf Coast.
The flawed federal response to Katrina was a major embarrassment for the Bush
administration, and led to dramatic changes at the government agency responsible
for handling natural disasters.
President Bush said the conditions going into the current hurricane season
are much improved. "The coordination on this storm is a lot better than during
Speaking after a briefing at the Austin emergency center, he said he
understands how difficult it was for the people in Gustav's path to evacuate and
leave their homes, including many residents of New Orleans who were still
rebuilding after Katrina. He urged them not to rush back until authorities are
sure it is safe. "It is very important for those who have been evacuated to
listen very carefully to the officials in their respective states, before they
decide to return. The storm has yet to pass. It is a serious event," he
Mr. Bush was accompanied to Texas by the head of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, David Paulison. Paulison emphasized to reporters
traveling with the president that the government learned the lessons of Katrina.
He made specific mention of the organized evacuation effort designed to empty
out New Orleans before Gustav struck, saying anyone who wanted to leave
Katrina was one of the worst storms in American history. Nearly
1,600 people were killed, and there was billions of dollars in damage. Gustav
appears to be somewhat tamer, but the full extent of damage and casualties is
not yet known.
In St. Paul, the Republican Party convention canceled
planned speeches for the opening day Monday, and urged delegates to focus their
attention on gathering aid for hurricane victims.