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A total of 2,616 campers are in Selma awaiting paperwork, inspections and transportation to Louisiana or Mississippi to help with housing due damage from Hurricane Katrina.
AP Photo by Rob Carr
A total of 2,616 campers are in Selma awaiting paperwork, inspections and transportation to Louisiana or Mississippi to help with housing due damage from Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA pulling unused campers from state parks

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday it is removing unoccupied travel trailers meant for Hurricane Katrina victims from Alabama state parks, where hundreds of the campers are sitting empty.

About 700 of the 1,247 campers located at 13 state parks are vacant, according to figures compiled by the state, and FEMA spokesman Don North said about 200 already have been removed on the belief no more storm victims are headed to Alabama.

Units taken from the parks are being hauled not straight to storm victims on the coast but rather to Selma, where North said 2,616 campers already are parked at a staging area awaiting paperwork, inspections and transportation to Louisiana or Mississippi.

North said the government is getting campers to people as quickly as possible but still must follow proper procedures.

"You can't just pull a trailer under a tree and put a family in it," said North.

In Hancock County, Miss., which caught the brunt of Katrina's force, 2,349 FEMA campers already are in use, said Tim Danneberg, a spokesman for the local emergency management office. That's about half the number that have been requested by displaced residents, he said.

Campers are arriving in the coastal county at a rate of about 150 a day, he said, and it was unclear whether trailers stockpiled in Alabama and elsewhere could be used immediately.

"I don't know that it's really possible to get them in any faster," said Danneberg.

Alabama's state parks had a fitful entry into the federal government's use of campers for hurricane relief, with state officials initially sidestepping rules to get evacuees into the trailers ahead of FEMA approval.

Fewer than expected

Since then, fewer people than expected have shown up needing shelter.

Wind Creek, located on Lake Martin in East Alabama, had the most storm evacuees of all state parks with 573 living in 221 travel trailers as of Tuesday, according to numbers released by the state. Another 278 campers were vacant at the park, and 150 may be removed.

About 100 FEMA trailers already have been removed from Lake Guntersville State Park, where 143 people are living in 59 units. More than 140 trailers remained empty at the park even after others were removed, said Tim Wishum, operations supervisor for the state's parks.

While FEMA apparently put more trailers than it needed in Alabama, Wishum defended the agency's performance.

"Personally I haven't been too critical of them because when you've got a half-million people without homes, who knows where they're going to go," he said.

North said trailers taken from Alabama parks could wind up in Mississippi or Louisiana, but not immediately.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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