HOUSTON – The distribution of debit cards to Hurricane Katrina (search) refugees continued Friday as officials worked to avoid some of the chaos from the previous day's deliveries.
Authorities were restricting access to Reliant Park as evacuees in the Astrodome complex began receiving $2,000 debit cards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search).
Distribution of Red Cross (search) cards, plagued Thursday by long lines that led to heat exhaustion for some refugees, continued Friday.
FEMA spokesman Ed Conley said there were no lines for his agency's debit cards late Friday morning.
He said shelter residents were being called over to Reliant Arena to receive cards. The agency was distributing 500 an hour, he said. Armed, uniformed Secret Service agents were overseeing the process.
There were still long lines for the Red Cross distribution at Reliant Center, but they were moving Friday. Volunteers handed out snacks and cold drinks as refugees waited.
A FEMA spokeswoman said there are enough cards to cover the families of the estimated 7,000 people registered at three shelters in the Astrodome complex. Conley said FEMA hoped to complete the Astrodome process by 7 p.m. Friday and that other evacuees who need the cards will begin receiving them at 2 p.m. Saturday.
"It looks like it is going very well," Conley said. "At the pace we are going, it looks like we will get through a majority of the families at the shelter."
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow (search), who visited the site Friday, said the debit cards were an example of the government doing what it can to give people hope that they can rebuild their lives.
"The scale of this disaster is just enormous, and it is critical that we respond quickly to help rebuild the region," Snow said. "The region will get rebuilt by the people of the region. They will take the lead."