August 31, 2005 at 4:40 PM CDT - Updated July 2 at 1:30 AM
At least 25,000 of Hurricane Katrina's refugees, a majority of them at the New Orleans Superdome, will travel in a bus convoy to Houston starting Wednesday and will be sheltered at the 40-year-old Astrodome, which hasn't been used for professional sporting events in years.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide 475 buses for the transfer, and the Astrodome's schedule has been cleared through December for housing evacuees, said Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Rusty Cornelius, administrative coordinator for the Harris County Office ofHomeland Security and Emergency Management, told The Associated Press that initial plans were being made early Wednesday.
"We are planning on being able to do a full shelter operation for 25,000 people," he said.
Cornelius said the refugees would be bused to Houston, but all would not necessarily be on the road at the same time. He said specifics of the transport and housing for the refugees were still being worked out with Red Cross and state government officials.
"We want to accommodate those people as quickly as possible for the simple reason they have been through a horrible ordeal," he said.
Perry talked to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco early Wednesday and agreed to the plan, Walt said.
Texas also is looking at the possibility of using the FordCenter in Beaumont for some long-term housing for other evacuees from Louisiana who may be staying in hotels, motels and campgrounds.
"Obviously from Governor Perry's standpoint, Texas is going to lend a helping hand and take care of those who have been devastated," Walt said.
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome which had become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.
The Astrodome helped put Houston on the map four decades ago. It still stands but is dwarfed by Reliant Stadium, the Houston Texans' newly constructed home.
The Astrodome opened in 1965, 10 years before the Superdome in New Orleans.
Associated Press Writer Kelley Shannon in Austin contributed to this story.
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