WASHINGTON – The government's disaster relief manager sought on Sunday to assure people in Florida that federal aid is in place to help with recovery efforts from the latest hurricane bearing down on the state.
In a briefing with agencies involving in responding to natural disasters, Michael Brown thanked representatives for their work in the aftermath of hurricanes Charley and Frances.
He also told the officials that Floridians will depend on such help more than ever after Hurricane Ivan, which is projected to make a direct hit on Cuba before it moves into the Gulf of Mexico or South Florida on Monday.
Mandatory evacuation orders for tourists and 79,000 residents were in effect for the Florida Keys.
"They got hit twice and are about to get hit a third time," Brown told a roomful of Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) employees at the agency's headquarters.
"They are looking to us, looking to everybody in this room and everybody on the ground, to help them out and give them some comfort, let them know that we care and that we're there to do whatever we can," said Brown, undersecretary of Homeland Security (search) for emergency preparedness and response.
"There's one more to go, and I haven't looked to the far Atlantic yet to see what's out there."
FEMA's response division director, Eric Tolbert, said despite incredibly intense working conditions, morale remained high among the on-the-scene relief workers in Florida.
He said many employees are working seven days a week, and the agency is setting up a rotation system to allow them at least a day of rest weekly.
"The morale is still high," Tolbert said. "The folks are holding up very well, and we closely watch that. I personally watch that."
He said he is confident "we're going to be OK going into yet a third operation."
Tolbert said supplies on order also are arriving on schedule.
Attending the meeting were representatives from the Defense Department, the FEMA-administered National Disaster and Medical System, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.