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Published:September 1st, 2005 14:12 EST
Illinois Gov. Blagojevich sends help to Katrina victims

Illinois Gov. Blagojevich sends help to Katrina victims

By Matthew Kent

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered Monday, August 29, 2005, that schools across the state should waive their residency requirements and enroll any child displaced due to Hurricane Katrina who relocates to live with family members or friends.
 
Meanwhile, the governor also announced that
Illinois’ Community College system will accept any student from Illinois who attends college in the Gulf States and needs somewhere to continue their education.
 
“This great tragedy has displaced so many people, including many students from
Illinois who were pursuing higher education in the gulf region," Blagojevich said. 
 
"Many of them can't afford to lose a semester on their way to a college degree.  We need the community colleges of
Illinois to help them to continue their studies uninterrupted,” he added.
 
The move comes shortly after word as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a SOS—terminology known as an international crisis—and with fears that the dead may be in the hundreds, if not thousands.  The death toll has reached nearly 185 people in
Mississippi.
 
“Hurricane Katrina forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes and communities.  So much about their lives changed overnight.  Today, I am opening our doors for the youngest victims of Hurricane Katrina.  These children deserve to go to school, where they can learn and just be kids,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
 
On
Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf States with winds in excess of 140 miles per hour, inflicting catastrophic and widespread damage across the region.  Katrina downgraded Tuesday to a tropical storm, shattered buildings, smashed cars and boats, toppled trees and flooded entire communities. 
 
It’s estimated that nearly 75,000 people are being housed in shelters 240 shelters across the region.  Nearly five million homes and businesses in
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are without electricity, according to utility companies serving region.  Risk analysts estimate the storm may cost insurers $26 billion, making Katrina potentially the costliest U.S. natural disaster. 
 
Louisiana officials estimate Hurricane Katrina forced as many as 150,000 schoolchildren away from their homes.  Mississippi officials estimate 35,000 schoolchildren were displaced. 
 
Children, whether traveling alone or with their families, will be considered homeless for enrollment purposes and will be enrolled immediately by local school districts in
Illinois.  The Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health will also temporarily waive immunization requirements for these children to allow for their immediate enrollment in school.  Illinois has more than 4,000 K-12 public schools.
 
In addition to sending medical personnel, troops and equipment, Gov. Blagojevich authorized the Illinois National Guard to travel to
Louisiana to assist in Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts.
 
“We are all only beginning to understand the damage, destruction and pain Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the people of
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  In addition to sending our prayers to the families whose homes and communities have been shattered by this devastating storm, we are also sending our troops,” Blagojevich said.
 
Louisiana needs our help, and I’m happy to send the Illinois National Guard today and our emergency medical team yesterday to help them.”
 
The Illinois National Guard will send up to 50 military vehicles and 300 soldiers to the devastated state.  The soldiers are assembling in
Springfield today and will leave for Louisiana Friday morning.  On Tuesday, August 30, 2005, the Governor authorized the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team to travel to Louisiana to assist as well. 
 
Maj. Gen. Randal Thomas, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard said he assessed his units and their capabilities and decided to provide support without disrupting the governor’s ability to respond to other state emergencies, if needed.
 
"We are proud to be able to help the people of the
Gulf States as they struggle to recover from the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina,” Thomas said.
 
"This coordinated response by the Illinois National Guard and other states to provide personnel and equipment in support of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort demonstrates the rapid response capability and flexibility of the National Guard in dealing with catastrophic natural events or other homeland defense emergencies.”
 
With scenes of looting and chaos, thousands are still stranded wondering when help will be on the way.  Tensions grew—fires and looting were visible, according to The Associated Press—and many are still desperate and tired.  Nearly 80 percent of the city is submerged under water and it’s uncertain how long it will take the city to recover from its damages.
 
In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff held a press conference today and said the government is doing everything it can to prevent lawlessness from occurring.  Fourteen-hundred National Guardsmen are being sent into the city on a daily basis, he said.  Twenty-eight hundred are already there.
 
For those who want to help hurricane victims to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.  Donations to the Disaster Relief Fund can be made by calling 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).  Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or through a secure internet site at www.redcross.org.