They opened up the Coliseum in Phoenix to about 1000 people from New Orleans. The people didn’t even know where they were going until the plane pushed back from the gate, one of the people they interviewed on the news said. Can you imagine being in a situation so bad that you’d bet your life and the lives of your kids that what’s on the other end of that plane ride to points unknown is better than where you are now?
Hurricane refugees begin arriving in Phoenix
Sept. 4, 2005 12:01 PM
The first group of Hurricane Katrina refugees who will take shelter in Arizona arrived Sunday at Sky Harbor International Airport. The state is prepared to welcome around 2,000 people, though it?s unclear how many will be brought in.
About 150 people from the New Orleans area were aboard the first plane to arrive in the Phoenix area, said airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.
They were greeted by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Red Cross officials and other local officials.
Several could be seen being helped off the plane and down a stairway to the airport tarmac. Flip-flops in pink, yellow, teal and black were set out for them.
We?ll take care of them,? Gordon told reporters moments before the plane arrived. ?We?ll make sure they know that the city cares.?
The evacuees were evaluated at the airport, with some being put on buses that would take them to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which was set up to hold about 1,000 people. Those too ill to go to a shelter were to be taken to a hospital, said Capt. Paul Aguirre, a spokeswoman for the Arizona National Guard.
Aguirre said most of the evacuees were in a good mood. ?One person told me, ?We?re just happy to be on dry ground,? ? said Aguirre.
Estimates on the number of Gulf Coast refugees who could be brought to shelters in Arizona range from 500 to 2,500, said Jeanine L?Ecuyer, spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Napolitano.
The state has options to accommodate the high end of the estimates if the need arises, L?Ecuyer said.
Napolitano said she had expected about 500 refugees to be here by Sunday night.
If Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix reaches its capacity of 1,000 refugees, the Tucson Convention Center was prepared to welcome another 1,000, L?Ecuyer said.
?We will do everything to make them comfortable and help them rebuild their lives,? L?Ecuyer said, noting that relief workers will offer refugees food and water and tend to their medical and mental health needs.
Napolitano said she didn?t know how long people would stay in the coliseum. ?It?s not possible to give a precise timeline,? the governor said.
Relief workers set up cots and blankets Saturday at the Phoenix coliseum, the first shelter expected to receive refugees.
State officials were unable to say how long the displaced people would remain in shelters, but said they planned to help find longer-term housing for refugees.
The state was prepared to help address the needs of refugees, including making arrangements for health care, assistance in seeking federal welfare benefits and placing children in schools, L?Ecuyer said.
The Red Cross will oversee the care of the evacuees. Officials discouraged people from bringing food and clothes to the coliseum, because relief workers won?t be in a position to accept the assistance.
Comments are closed.