Local News

Triangle Welcomes Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County officials said hundreds of evacuees from the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast have arrived in Raleigh.

After they were flown into Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the evacuees were transported to the Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center, which is located near the N.C. State Fairgrounds.

"I have received a warm welcome," evacuee Margaret Crawsley said. "I've had a devastating experience."

Before they entered the shelter, the evacuees were decontaminated. Most of the evacuees came straight from the flooded streets of New Orleans.

"Probably more than anything, [the evacuees] can expect to receive services from our staff. They'll be helping them with medication, connecting with any relatives, helping them with getting any type of assistance they need," Joe Bryan, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said. "And we really do see it as a long-term scenario."

On Saturday afternoon, local officials were notified of the need to host 500 to 1,000 evacuees of Hurricane Katrina within hours.

In response to the request, Wake County, the City of Raleigh and the RBC Center partnered to set up the Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center.

About 400 Raleigh, Wake County and RBC Center employees converted a 100,000-square-foot vacant corporate training center in Raleigh into a recovery center -- complete with cots, blankets and pillows -- in less than 24 hours.

"We have no idea how long these people will be here," Wake County Community Health Director Gibbie Harris said. "We just have to prepare for them to be here a while."

The RBC Center and the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center will provide culinary services and operate a cafeteria, officials said.

Officials said the recovery center could not accept donations.

"We admire and understand people's desire to help these victims," Bryan said. "We thank them for their generosity and ask them to funnel their donations through established relief agencies."

The Wake County Human Services Department has set up a hotline (919) 212-9595 for people if they would like to donate items such as toys, clothing or money.

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