Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on Hurricane Damage in Texas

August 18, 1983

Following reports of extensive property damage and the loss of life in the wake of Hurricane Alicia, the President this morning telephoned Senator John Tower and Governor Mark White of Texas. The President told the Senator and the Governor he had directed all appropriate resources of the Federal Government to be made available to the people of Texas.

Initial reports indicate that damage in south Texas is widespread, with heavy property losses in Houston, Galveston, and the six-county surrounding area. There are also reports of some loss of life. The President says he is directing the Federal Emergency Management Administration to move expeditiously to provide relief to the citizens of south Texas. ``The Federal Government stands ready to move quickly and is doing so. Our teams are ready to go into the area immediately, and I have impressed upon them the urgency of the situation. We deeply sympathize with the people of Galveston and south Texas who face this massive storm and stand to lose their homes and possessions.''

The President paid tribute to emergency workers of civil defense, police, fire, and volunteer emergency services for their role in the evacuation of citizens from the area. ``We are confident the actions of these individuals saved lives, and they are to be commended.''

As a result of the President's instructions, FEMA Administrator Louis O. Giuffrida has said that the President has instructed him to ``do all the law will allow.'' The FEMA regional office was in contact with the Governor's office yesterday and again today. Governor White has announced in a press conference within the hour that he has sent a telegram to the President requesting Federal assistance. FEMA before noon Pacific time will be airlifting via the Air Force an emergency communications van to provide communications in the affected areas.

FEMA will open a series of offices to have flood insurance claims and start processing those claims immediately. Fifty to seventy thousand people in the area have flood insurance. Six FEMA field teams will be dispatching to the area to coordinate Federal services. They will be en route as soon as their aircraft is able to land following the winds subsiding in the area.

As soon as we receive the request in Washington from Governor White and if the requirements of the Disaster Relief Act are met, which we are confident they are by the severity of the storm, we will make a judgment as to what services are beyond the capability of State and local governments, and then the President will move to issue a Federal disaster declaration.

FEMA has a number of people on standby and will be mustering representatives of more than 20 Federal agencies to be of assistance. These include the Small Business Administration, Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Transportation.

Note: Deputy Press Secretary Larry M. Speakes read the statement during his daily press briefing for reporters in the briefing facility in the Sheraton Santa Barbara Hotel in Santa Barbara, Calif.