AUSTIN, Texas — The state of Texas agreed Thursday to take in three times more refugees from Hurricane Katrina than officials initially expected, bringing the total number of evacuees to at least 73,000.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that 50,000 more refugees would relocate to Texas, with plans to house 25,000 each in San Antonio and Dallas. Those people would join 23,000 others who are already being sent from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston.
Perry declared an emergency disaster for the state, freeing up money to provide services for hurricane victims.
The hurricane “has created emergency conditions in Texas that will require all available resources of both federal and state governments to overcome,” Perry said. “We will do all we can as a state and a people to help our neighbors to the east who have lost so much.”
The governor asked the state Department of Housing and Community Affairs to set aside all vacant low-income housing units for refugees. So far 7,000 units have been reserved for hurricane victims.
San Antonio builds shelter
A shelter is being created in San Antonio in a huge warehouse at KellyUSA, a city-owned complex that once was home to an Air Force base. In Dallas, the refugees will go to Reunion Arena, the former home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
“Whatever we are called upon to do ... we intend to welcome these people with open arms and to try to give them some dignity which these circumstances have taken away from them,” San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger said.
Perry, who agreed to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s request Wednesday to take in the evacuees, said Texas naturally wants to help its neighbor.
“I think we all understand it’s by the grace of God that this terrible tragedy didn’t come ashore a few hundred miles west,” Perry said. “And knowing such a catastrophe could have happened here, I think Texans have a very special bond between our neighbors to the east who are going through an absolutely unbelievable ordeal at this point in time.”
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