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4,000 refugees expected to come to Missouri

September 06, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt invited refugees from Louisiana to make Missouri their new home. At a press conference Tuesday the governor and the state's adjutant general announced that they are expecting around 4,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina to enter the state.

"We certainly are going to treat them as citizens," Blunt said. "I think we're doing everything we can to reach out to them and embrace them with open arms."

Adjutant Gen. King Sidwell said the state had an obligation. "What is the alternative? Do you say that you are not going to provide relief to a displaced American who has been flooded and their life has been destroyed?"

Sidwell -- who also serves as Missouri's Hurricane Relief Coordinator -- estimated that 1,500 refugees already have come to the Missouri on their own and another 2,500 are expected to be arriving this week.

"We are undergoing the planning phases with respect to the receipt of additional displaced Americans by air," Sidwell said.

"We are coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, we have communicated to them that we are prepared to receive up to 2,000 displaced Americans at the Boeing Facility at the Lambert International Airfield."

The refugees would stay at the facility about three days before being transported to longer term housing so they can be identified, provided medical attention, and given vouchers for food and clothing.

The Kansas City Airport will also house about 500 refugees arriving in the next few days, Sidwell said.

Many of the refugees are expected to remain in Missouri permanently. "You can expect almost 85 percent of those who are displaced to remain permanent residents of their new location," Sidwell said.

Sidwell also said that Missouri is one of the top five states providing support to the Louisiana relief effort with 1,958 members of the guard currently deployed. Forty-one percent of Missouri's National Guard is currently deployed either in Iraq or as hurricane relief duty.

"The Missouri guardsmen were very well received because when we deployed our soldiers and airman they went totally self-sufficient with their own water, food and housing and in fact they even deployed their own sanitation support."

Also at Tuesday's news conference, Blunt shifted his gas-price-increase focus from Missouri retailer to regional and national suppliers.

Blunt released a letter he wrote a letter to both the U.S. Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission chairman requesting a federal investigation into the increasing gas prices in Missouri and throughout the nation.

Gas prices in Missouri have increased between 30 and 40 cents per gallon in 48 hours last week.

"Ninety three percent of the price of gasoline is set before it arrives at the station, because of that I have become concerned that perhaps the problem if there is any gauging or any non-market forces that are driving prices the problem may be at the wholesale level."