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Help pours in for Floridians

President Bush inspects Florida damage


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A small plane lies upside down Sunday at Port Charlotte Airport in northern Charlotte County.
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Punta Gorda residents have started to come to grips with destruction.

Cleanup is under way after high winds and rain in the Carolinas.
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American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund - (800) HELP-NOW; victims and family can call (866) GET-INFO
Catholic Charities, USA - (800) 919-9338
Salvation Army - (800) SAL-ARMY
United Methodist Committee on Relief - (800) 554-8583
Online: www.fema.gov/rrr/help2.shtm
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Hurricane Charley
Florida
Hurricane Season

PUNTA GORDA, Florida (CNN) -- Federal and state officials worked Sunday to hasten the arrival of aid, electricity and security to the thousands of Floridians left homeless and hungry by Hurricane Charley.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said 402 trucks from other states had arrived with 2 million gallons of drinking water, and 162 trucks delivered ice to the area.

Aid agencies had already provided more than 300,000 meals where potable water, electricity and phone service remained unavailable.

The Florida National Guard activated 4,000 troops for the recovery effort and an extra 750 law enforcement officers were on the roads, officials said.

Florida Power & Light estimated that 377,000 of its customers remained without electricity. About 250,000 of those were in the southwest Florida counties hardest hit by the storm.

John O. Agwunobi, the state's health secretary, encouraged first responders to remain cautious and hydrated in the 95 degree weather, and he reminded parents to give children extra water and attention.

The Category 4 storm killed 16 people as it churned diagonally across the state from the southwest coast to the northeast corner, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said Sunday.

It was the strongest hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992.

Jennings said five people died in Polk County; four in Charlotte County; two each in Orange and Volusia counties; and one each in DeSoto, Lee and Sarasota counties.

Punta Gorda, a town in Charlotte County about 25 miles north of Fort Myers, bore the brunt of Charley's force as winds gusted to 180 mph (289 kph) in the city.

Monday was to be the first day back in class from the summer vacation for many schools in the region, but it could be two weeks before some open their doors to students, officials said.

The state was working with local school districts to assess campus safety, said John Wynn, deputy commissioner with the Florida Department of Education.

It will be one or two weeks before students can restart school in Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties, Wynn said. Polk County schools will be a week late in starting, and Volusia and Orange county schools may be two days away from having classes, he said.

Aiding victims

The Federal Emergency Management Agency designated 20 counties eligible for federal disaster assistance. The move allows a quicker rush of funds and resources to the worst hit areas.

Mike Bolch with FEMA said federal officials were going house to house searching for possible victims and providing assistance.

FEMA also was conducting aerial surveillance, looking for survivors who may need quick assistance.

The Red Cross set up shelters in affected areas, including Punta Gorda. Spokesman Chris Paladeno said the Red Cross mobile food kitchen in Punta Gorda would produce 20,000 meals a day.

Bronson warned Sunday that the state would not allow anyone to bring more harm to victims with price gouging.

A state official said Sunday afternoon during a press conference that one company charged an elderly couple $11,000 for removing a tree from their house.

Bronson warned citizens to be alert, promising to prosecute anyone caught violating Florida anti-price gouging laws

"We're not playing games, we're not giving warnings," Bronson said. "If somebody's out there price gouging, they are going to be charged, and if it is a criminal offense, we will get the attorney general's office to carry those charges on to court."

Presidential visit

President Bush arrived Sunday in southwest Florida with his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for a flyover inspection of the devastation.

"The job of the federal government and the state government is to surge resources as quickly as possible to disaster areas, and that's exactly what's happening now," the president said.

"It is hard to describe seeing an entire community flattened," Gov. Bush said Saturday. Damage, he said, is clearly in the billions of dollars.

The state's $9 billion citrus industry was "just completely devastated" by the storm, according to a citrus growers' group.

About 280,000 of 800,000 acres (35 percent) dedicated for growing grapefruit and oranges were in the storm's path, said Florida Citrus Mutual spokeswoman Casey Pace.

One grower estimated that 70 percent of his crop was destroyed, she said.

Storms en route

After making landfall Saturday in South Carolina, Charley was downgraded to a tropical storm, and by 11 a.m. ET Sunday, it had dissipated to a tropical depression near New England. Remnants of the storm, with winds of 35 mph (56 kph), were moving northeast, the National Hurricane Center said.

Meanwhile, the fourth and fifth named storms of the Atlantic hurricane season were out at sea Sunday.

At 11 p.m. ET, Hurricane Danielle, which formed as a tropical storm Friday and developed into a Category 2 hurricane Saturday, was reported 755 miles (1,215 kilometers) west of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. It was moving toward the northwest at near 17 mph (28 kph), the center said.

Tropical Storm Earl remained poorly organized in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph). At 11 p.m. ET, it was about 500 miles (805 kilometers) southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and was reported moving west at near 22 mph (35 kph), the hurricane center said.


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