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"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Texas struggles to cope with hurricane influx

Texas struggles to cope with hurricane influx

Sun Sep 4, 7:03 AM ET

Texas has been swamped by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina, straining resources in a state where government is small and people fend for themselves.

The Lone Star state, cradle of President George W. Bush's philosophy of muscular individualism, says it is doing its best to welcome the bedraggled exodus from New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast devastated by Katrina.

But officials warn that shelters, hospitals and schools in Texas, which has some of the lowest levels of social spending in the United States, risk being overwhelmed.

Governor Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush in 2000, wrote to the president on Thursday to appeal for federal help.

"We will do all we can as a state and a people to help our neighbours to the east who have lost so much," he said.

"Hurricane Katrina, a disaster for our neighbouring states, has created emergency conditions in Texas that will require all available resources of both federal and state governments to overcome."

At least 73,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who lost their homes to Katrina's fury are being evacuated to Texas cities including Houston, Dallas and Austin.

But throughout the Houston area alone, officials estimate that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 evacuees staying in shelters, hotel rooms and with friends and relatives.

The city's Astrodome stadium took between 10,000 and 11,000 refugees before it closed its doors late Thursday.

Ramon Miguez, assistant city manager in Dallas, said the city could only take about 8,200 refugees, down from an initial estimate of 10,000.

"We have already advised the state this morning that we are fast approaching capacity," Miguez said Saturday.

"They, in essence, need to cease the flow to Dallas."

Having seen the looting and violence that engulfed New Orleans after its flood defences collapsed on Tuesday, Texas officials are fretting about law and order.

"We're hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We don't know what kinds of populations we'll be getting on the buses," Dallas police chief David Kunkle said.

"New Orleans has historically been a violent city. But we will keep the residents of Dallas safe," he said.

Jeff Ferrel, a sociologist at the Texas Christian University, said the crisis is unlike any before to hit the oil-rich state of 22 million people.

"It is not only relocation and food. The social safety net has to be really strong ... we are already hearing reports of social services being overwhelmed," he said.

Carol Thomson, another sociologist at the university, warned of racial tensions as the largely black and relatively poor residents of New Orleans flood into Texas, whose black population is comparatively small at 11 percent.

"We already have a housing challenge in this area. Our schools are full. Texas is quite conservative and social programming has been cut," she said.

Robert Young, head of the sociology department at the University of Texas at Arlington, said many of the survivors will be here to stay.

"The big challenge will be getting integrated that many people suddenly into the local communities," he said.

"The people who have been evacuated, they had no choice as to where they would end up. They will settle simply because they don't have any resources."

Hank Finney, 40, vowed never to return to his native New Orleans after being evacuated to San Antonio. "My wife, my kids and I have been living on overpasses, standing in water with faeces and losing hope," he said. "Thank God for San Antonio."

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

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