September 2, 2005

Storm-ravaged US military bases sputter to life

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. military bases in the
hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast sputtered back to life on Friday,
with some of them calling evacuated personnel back to help in
relief efforts.

After significant flooding and some storm damage from
Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Naval Air Station Joint
Reserve Base had opened an airstrip to fly supplies for the
thousands of refugees still trapped in the city, a Navy
spokesman in Washington said.

The Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport,
Mississippi, sustained heavy storm damage and remains strewn
with debris, but is calling back members of its Seabees
construction units to join recovery efforts.

Much of the staff was evacuated before the storm smashed
the Gulf Coast on Monday and Navy officials in Washington were
not able to contact the base for days.

But diesel generators were being fueled and roads to the
base were being cleared, said Rick Crews, a Navy spokesman in
Pensacola, Florida. About 130 Seabees were back on duty, but
Crews appealed for the remainder to return or call in.

In Pascagoula, Mississippi, supplies were being brought to
the Pascagoula Naval Station on Singing River Island to make
piers operational for the return of the guided missile cruisers
and frigates it sent out to sea to avoid storm damage. Crews
said the ships could provide power and supplies to the area.

Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, took a
direct hit from Katrina but its staff and their families
survived unharmed in a shelter, the base said on its Web site.
Half the base was under water, with critical functions
operating on backup power.