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FEMA pays out $669 million

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Houston The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid $669 million nationwide to families affected by Hurricane Katrina, officials announced Saturday.

The agency has registered 573,262 households nationwide for benefits, agency spokesman Ed Conley said, explaining that the figure includes singles and families.

Later Saturday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas released a FEMA memo that detailed how local and state governments could be reimbursed for assisting evacuees.

FEMA will reimburse governments for lodging, housing, transportation and labor costs, according to the memo. Many expenses related to education and health care will also be reimbursed, but not the costs of hiring extra teachers or buying additional textbooks.

Gulf oil production still sputtering

New Orleans More than 120 Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms were still shut down Saturday and nearly 60 percent of the gulf’s normal daily oil production remained blocked from the market because of evacuations due to Hurricane Katrina, a federal agency said.

Following a survey of 56 energy companies, the Minerals Management Service reported that 122 of the 819 staffed platforms in the gulf were shut down, blocking 897,605 barrels – or 59.8 percent of the Gulf’s normal daily production of 1.5 million barrels.

The shutdowns also blocked 3.8 billion barrels of natural gas from market, or 38.2 percent of the gulf’s normal daily gas production of 10 billion cubic feet, the agency said.

Authorities turn back German aid plane

Berlin A German military plane carrying 15 tons of military rations for survivors of Hurricane Katrina was sent back by U.S. authorities, officials said Saturday.

The plane was turned away Thursday because it did not have the required authorization, a German government spokesman said.

The spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, declined to comment on a report in the German news magazine Der Spiegel that U.S. authorities refused the delivery on the grounds that the NATO military rations could carry mad cow disease.

The spokesman said U.S. authorities had since given approval for future aid flights, but it was unclear whether the German military would try again to deliver the rations.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck the United States, many international donors have complained of frustration that bureaucratic entanglements have hindered shipments to the United States.

German military planes have flown several loads of rations to the Gulf Coast. Berlin is also sending teams equipped with high-capacity pumps to help clear floodwaters.

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