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National Archives

Public Papers - 1992

Address to the Nation on Hurricane Andrew Disaster Relief

1992-09-01

Good evening, everyone. Eight days ago the people of south Florida and Louisiana were confronted by perhaps the most destructive natural disaster in our history. Tonight I want to report to the Nation on the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and the effort required to help Andrew's survivors back on their feet.

In the past week I've twice visited Louisiana and Florida. And in Florida, where the storm was strongest, up to a quarter million people have lost their homes, many huddled beneath the busted timbers of what was once a living room or a kitchen. There's no running water, no electricity. Little children are left without even a toy to play with.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, a relief effort has risen, unprecedented in size and impact. And tonight as we speak, almost 20,000 troops are on the ground assisting in everything from providing meals to erecting tent cities. Basic human needs, food, water, shelter, and medical assistance, are being provided.

In Florida, a curfew is in place, and the National Guard and local police patrol the streets. It's a tribute to these officers and to the people of this region that looting has been kept to a minimum. Social Security checks are being delivered on time. Financial help is being made available to families who have lost their homes and their jobs.

This relief effort has generated incredible cooperation. My thanks go to so many people who slept so little the past 8 days, to State and local government officials, Federal Agencies, private charities, and the heroic men and women of the United States military. Most especially, my appreciation goes out to the volunteers. When we arrived in Florida, some of the first people we met were from South Carolina, victims of Hurricane Hugo who had spent the night driving so they could help others through their ordeal. We met doctors and firefighters spending sleepless vacations lending a helping hand. Through the eloquence of their action, I've been reminded that America will always be a nation of neighbors.

Although the relief effort is well underway, urgent needs still exist. And so tonight I make a special appeal to the generous spirit of the American people. People in Florida and Louisiana want to stay in their homes. They're in desperate need of rolls of plastic to cover open roofs, lumber to board up walls, and cots to sleep on. They also need diapers, baby formula, and other infant supplies. And fresh volunteers are needed to staff medical facilities or help with the cleanup.

Right now, America's churches and charities are mobilizing to meet these needs. And I encourage all Americans to pitch in, in any way you can. If you don't know where to turn and you want to help right now, please call the American Red Cross at 1 - 800 - 842 - 2200. 1 - 800 - 842 - 2200.

Once our relief effort is complete, we will accelerate the process of recovery. Already today we announced plans to rebuild Homestead Air Force Base, the linchpin of the economy in devastated areas. And a distinguished Florida business leader, Alvah Chapman, has agreed to head a national private sector effort to help rebuild south Florida. It's called ``We Will Rebuild.'' This effort has my strong support and the support of Florida Governor Chiles. All of us are in this for the long haul. If you want to be a part of this effort, please write We Will Rebuild. And the address is Post Office Box 010790, Miami, Florida, and the ZIP Code is 33131.

In the past 8 days we've seen on our TV screens real tears, real sorrow, real hurt. Livelihoods have been destroyed. Lives, even young lives, have been tragically lost. But already in Florida and Louisiana, we're talking not just of relief but of recovery. This is a tribute to what is inside us. And yes, Andrew blew a whirlwind of devastation. But he could never extinguish the American spirit, a spirit of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. We have seen that spirit in action the past 8 days. And with this spirit and your enduring commitment, our neighbors in south Florida and Louisiana will recover.

Thank you for your generosity. And our prayers are with all who stood in Andrew's path. Good night.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. The address was broadcast live on nationwide television.

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