Feds Mobilize Massive Rita Relief Effort

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration, eager to avoid repeating the error-prone response to Hurricane Katrina, mounted a broad mobilization of government assistance on Saturday to areas of Texas and Louisiana slammed by Hurricane Rita.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that while the storm remains dangerous, no fatalities as a result of the storm have been reported.

''The damage is not as serious as we had expected it to be,'' said acting FEMA director R. David Paulison. ''The evacuations worked.''

Paulison said, ''We have no reported deaths at this time from any of the states.''

President Bush, who monitored the hurricane from a command post in Colorado, and other federal officials cautioned residents of Texas and western Louisiana against returning to their homes.

''The first order of business now is the search and rescue teams, to pull people out of harm's way,'' Bush said.

Paulison, at a briefing, also warned that ''most of the fatalities, most of the injuries, are after the hurricane is over.''

Urban search and rescue teams already were in the stricken area and ''we got quite a few people out,'' Paulison said. He said medical teams were already treating people in Houston.

Paulison said he had no assessment yet on the damage to the oil industry. The area has the country's largest concentration of oil refineries.

''Although the winds have died down a bit, there's still a tremendous amount of rain. ... There could be flooding all the way up to Arkansas,'' he said.

Paulison called the breaching of some levees in New Orleans because of heavy rain from Rita a setback that can be overcome. ''We will have to go back and repair those levees and pump out the water again,'' he said. ''It will probably set us back two or three days.''

New Orleans bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina three weeks ago.

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