Military's Katrina mission nears end
Honore: Crisis phase complete, recovery is next
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NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore -- the colorful leader of the military's response to Hurricane Katrina -- said that the joint task force mission was nearing its end stage, barring any further destruction from Hurricane Rita.
The Category 5 storm appears to be headed for the Texas coast but could strike Louisiana's periphery and bring more rain that could threaten New Orleans' levees. (Full story)
"We finished the crisis and response phase," Honore said from New Orleans' convention center, the site of so much misery in the aftermath of Katrina. The recovery phase is next, he said.
But he noted that troops there are "still in the first quarter" and have a lot of work to do.
The National Guard is fully mobilized in Louisiana, he said, and is being repositioned in Mississippi.
When asked if he was happy with New Orleans' evacuation plan ahead of Rita, Honore said he was "happy with what I know. I'm not happy with what I don't know."
"I got buses. I got troops. I got doctors. I got helicopters standing by," he said. A field hospital had been set up behind the convention center, and more than 3,000 troops were nearby, he said.
"That's what I know, and it's well-organized from that perspective. It still comes up to a person's choice," he said, referring to those who had chosen not to evacuate the city despite mandatory evacuation orders.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued the order Tuesday and told residents who had no transportation to assemble at the convention center to take buses out of town.
Although two full busloads left Tuesday, no one had asked for a ride by early Wednesday evening.
Honore also said he was trying to keep up constant communication with his troops, who are worried about their own families in the affected region.
In an effort to give them some relief from the sights they've seen and the stress they've been under, singer Wayne Newton and country singer Neil McCoy performed for some of the hurricane troops Wednesday in Louisiana.
"They've been very supportive of troops around the world," Honore said of the entertainers.
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