More Beds Lined up for Big Evacuation

August 16, 2006

Reported by: Associated Press

State and federal officials have agreed to try to have 150,000 shelter beds available for hurricanes that require large evacuations.

About 93,000 spaces already have been lined up, but exactly how many in-state shelters should be opened has been debated between state and federal emergency preparedness officials.

Federal officials said they could not ask other states to take evacuees unless maximum space was made available by Louisiana for its own residents. But an official says he doubts there's enough space to reach the federal government's target of 150,000 beds.

Gil Jamieson, the Department of Homeland Security's principal federal official in Louisiana, said that all the agencies involved are now working off the same lists and trying to reach the same goal. Jamieson says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to help get personnel needed to open the shelters.

After Hurricane Katrina last year, about 140,000 people ended up in shelters outside Louisiana.

Officials say a catastrophic storm threatening the entire Louisiana coast could require space for up to 250,000 evacuees. Jamieson said FEMA is working with Louisiana officials to secure the necessary deals with neighboring states to provide 100,000 additional beds.

Jamieson says officials also have been working with local governments to help evacuate people who don't have their own transportation, including lining up contracts with bus companies that could evacuate 88,000 people from New Orleans.

He says about 15,000 people could be evacuated on Amtrak trains, while airplanes leaving from New Orleans and Lake Charles could take out an additional 45,000 evacuees.