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400+ Trucks Face Delays In Delivering Supplies To Katrina Victims

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BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS. — Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the federal government continues to be criticized in the aftermath of what has now recognized as "the most destructive storm in U.S. history."

The latest complaint is that supplies meant for hurricane victims are not getting to them.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is contracting with trucking companies all over the country to deliver supplies to seven staging areas in the Gulf States.

At the John C. Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., 426 tractor-trailers full of ice, water, food, baby supplies and more sit day after day waiting to be unloaded. They fill the parking lots at the NASA facility, and line almost every road.

"I talked to two truckers out of Oregon," said Al Stegall, a truck driver from North Carolina. "The government paid them $8,000 to bring that load of ice from Oregon here. They're getting $60 an hour for sitting here."

Stegall arrived Monday from Mebane, N.C. with a load of water. He is still in St. Louis and says he is not happy about still being there.

"I don't think they know how to get the stuff to the people that need it," Stegall said.

Other truckers agree with Stegall. Even though they are making money, they say they do not want to sit for days and definitely do not want their loads to go to waste.

"Do you think it's a waste to have all this stuff sitting here?" asked WRAL's Amanda Lamb.

"Seems like it -- seems like it to me," said Arkansas truck driver Jim Shrum. "But I'm sure there are people who know a lot more about it than me."

So, who are the people that know? WRAL asked an incident commander from the Florida Division of Forestry, one of the groups in charge of managing this operation for FEMA.

"Some of these guys have been here a couple of days. Some of these guys have been here a while," said WRAL's Lamb.

"I can't really tell you a whole lot about that," said Barry Coulliette, of the Florida Division of Forestry.

What he could tell Lamb is that the demand for supplies has decreased since the disaster. Coulliette says they stopped ordering trucks four days ago, but that the trucks keep coming because many were already dispatched.

James Shabel, a spokesperson for FEMA in Atlanta, says the supplies will not go to waste. He says they are simply waiting for communities to set up safe distribution sites.

Shabel says right after the disaster, there was a surplus of water and ice from Florida that was distributed in the Gulf States. Now, more supplies are coming in from all over the country and they are in line at the staging areas to be sent out when there is a need.

"Doesn't it cost a lot of money to have all these truckers sitting here?" asked WRAL's Lamb.

"It does, but wouldn't it be better to have the product sitting here if you need it?" Coulliette said.

Coulliette says any supplies not used will be warehoused or sent to other states. He expects at least 200 trucks to be sent to North Carolina and South Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia.

But Stegall thinks it would be better if hurricane victims had everything they needed and none of the trucks were waiting at taxpayers' expense.

"I'm just putting the situation down because people are taking advantage of a disaster," Stegall said. "That's what it's amounting to, and the government is supporting it."

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