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September 1, 2005

USCG says reopening ports and waterways is a high priority

While the U.S. Coast Guard continues its rescue and relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in a statement yesterday it said that reopening ports and waterways and Outer Continental Shelf reconstitution is a high priority.

As of yesterday, Coast Guard air and boat crews had assisted in the rescue of 1,259 people, and were continuing to respond to distress calls.

The Coast Guard is working with FEMA, and is delivering relief supplies aboard its C-130 cargo planes.

There are approximately 4,000 Coast Guardsmen currently in the area working on response and recovery, as well as 15 cutters, 37 airplanes and rescue helicopters, 63 small boats, three maritime safety and security teams, three oil and hazardous material response teams and five aid to navigation teams.

The Coast Guard says the hurricane caused catastrophic devastation. It anticipates that there will be prolonged waterways management and environmental cleanup operations. As of yesterday, five oil rigs from West Delta Platform were missing, one submersible rig wass grounded at south pass, two mobile offshore drilling units were adrift, two semi-submersibles are listing, and the MARS facility is severely damaged.

A high priority is reopening ports and waterways and Outer Continental Shelf reconstitution. The Coast Guard anticipates prolonged waterways management issues and environmental cleanup operations. Currently, all Gulf ports remain closed. The Coast Guard is beginning to conduct port surveys and is moving assets into the area to reconstitute the aids-to-navigation system on the Mississippi River and other waterways.

Four Coast Guard personnel from Coast Guard Sector Mobile have not been accounted for. Coast Guard facilities have experienced varying degrees of damage. Early reports indicate Coast Guard Station Gulfport, Miss., was destroyed. Station Venice, La., is partially submerged. Station Grand Isle, Ala., sustained slight damage to the group building and Coast Guard housing. Station New Orleans appears to have sustained little damage, but remains inaccessible by car.

"As part of a commited team, we have been working tirelessly to help those in need and to begin work on the ports and waterways," said Rear Adm. Robert Duncan, the Coast Guard incident commander. "Some of our own people are missing. Many of the Coast Guard personnel responding to this disaster have likely lost their properties. We will be here helping these communities as long as it takes

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