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Red Cross Response to Katrina Criticized

In the last five weeks, the American Red Cross has mobilized more than 170,000 relief workers. It has housed nearly half a million people in hotels and shelters. And it has doled out more than $800 million in emergency assistance.

Still, all across the Gulf Coast, people are criticizing the non-profit group's relief efforts during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Common complaints have been busy Red Cross phone lines, assistance that was inadequate or came too late, and the location of Red Cross relief centers, some of which have been difficult to find or reach.

Red Cross officials acknowledge the problems, but say the unprecedented size and complexity of the task was central to the difficulties that followed.

The group had to recruit and train thousands of new volunteers; it's now processing 35,000 claims a day.

A Red Cross spokeswoman says the group will analyze its performance and "will definitely make some changes that will help us in future disasters of this magnitude."

Web Extra: Red Cross Hurricane Response by the Numbers

Estimated number of Hurricane Katrina victims dispersed across the country: 750,000

Number of surviving families provided Red Cross financial assistance: 929,000

Number of Red Cross shelters for hurricane victims: 1,150

Number of hurricane victims still provided Red Cross housing at shelters and hotels: 483,000

Amount paid out in Red Cross emergency financial assistance to hurricane survivors: $854 million

Amount Red Cross has spent to date on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts: $1.3 billion

Amount in gifts and pledges received by the Red Cross for hurricane relief: $1.1 billion

Amount the Red Cross expects to need for hurricane relief efforts: $2 billion

Number of Red Cross relief workers mobilized in response to Hurricane Katrina: 177,600

Number of Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles deployed in Mississippi counties most directly affected by Hurricane Katrina: 75

Number of Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles deployed in Hancock County, Miss., five days after Hurricane Katrina: 1 (source: Betty Brunner)

Number of Red Cross shelters opened in Hancock County, Miss., for hurricane Katrina evacuees: 1

Number of hurricane shelters opened in Hancock County, Miss., by groups other than the Red Cross: 5

Number of Red Cross shelters opened in counties adjacent to Hancock for Hurricane Katrina evacuees: 22

Number of Red Cross volunteers deployed in Hancock County, Miss., immediately after Hurricane Katrina: Five (source: Betty Brunner)

Number of Red Cross volunteers deployed in counties adjacent to Hancock immediately after Hurricane Katrina: 50

Estimated number of people left homeless in Hancock County, Miss., due to Hurricane Katrina: 30,000 (source: Hancock County Emergency Operations Center)

Population of Hancock County, Miss.: 46,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Source: The American Red Cross, except as noted; all data as of Oct. 5, 2005

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.
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