DOT coordinates transportation for relief efforts
A massive logistics effort to bring relief supplies to Louisiana and Mississippi is now in full swing.
After being criticized for their slow response in the days after last week’s devastating hurricane, federal agencies and the military have since been able to rush much needed supplies and personnel to the region.
The Department of Transportation is taking a lead role coordinating much of the transportation. It says it has arranged for 1,639 trucks to haul 3,731 truckloads of goods, including 25 million MREs (meals ready to eat), more than 31 million liters of water, 56,400 tarps, more than 19 million pounds of ice and 215,000 blankets.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta Saturday became the first ever DOT head to request the Defense Department to release vessels in the U.S. Ready Reserve Fleet for service moving supplies and personnel into areas effected by Hurricane Katrina, as well as transporting people out of the region.
The vessels “Empire State”, “Sirius”, “State of Maine”, “Wright” and “Diamond State” are ready to set sail, while “Cape Kennedy” and “Cape Knox” are already in New Orleans, the DOT said.
“We need to act now to mobilize resources like these ships that can support what is going to be a long-term commitment to rebuilding the region,” Mineta said. “These vessels are designed to operate in any kind of environment, unloading supplies to help rebuild communities and house essential personnel.”
The department is also overseeing the largest airlift on U.S. soil to move in supplies and evacuate residents from New Orleans. On Sunday, 70 passenger flights took flood victims to other parts of the country. Officials have coordinated with other airports and airlines to provide operations and ground and ramp support to help unload and turnaround aircraft as soon as possible.
The aircraft are being supplied and operated by commercial airlines after DOT Secretary Norman Mineta invoked emergency authority requiring airlines to provide assistance during times of natural disaster.
The department has also provided 1,200 buses to help with the evacuation.
DOT has arranged for oil trucks to load fuel directly from oil pipelines in Collins, Miss., for delivery to emergency and relief personnel along the coast. It also coordinated propane deliveries to the New Orleans airport to maintain radar operations and arranged delivery of electrical generators for emergency operations in the city.
In addition to Louis Armstrong airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is also concentrating on restoring Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., airport to full operational status and repairing navigational aids throughout the Gulf region to minimize the hurricane's impact on the nation’s aviation system.
The DOT also arranged, with the help of freight railroads that own the tracks, for several Amtrak trains to evacuate residents.