The President. I want to make a brief statement on the hurricane situation in south Florida. I've been on the phone with Secretary Card; with the White House, of course; and with Governor Chiles, the Governor of Florida. Secretary Card is the head of this Federal task force that is responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, and I talked to both him and Governor Chiles about what more needs to be done.
I've directed the Federal troops to be immediately alerted and begin to provide additional emergency assistance to the victims of the disaster. We are going to fulfill the request of the Governor for Federal participation by the military. And then we will be doing a lot more because, as these reports have come in today, the damage is far more widespread than even we had feared. We directed the Department of Defense to supply comprehensive assistance to the affected areas, including mobile tents, food, water, field kitchens. I've also directed them to supply whatever transportation is necessary, including aircraft and helicopters, to fulfill that vital mission.
The damage has created tragedy for millions of Floridians. Some are estimating it may be the worst national disaster this country has seen, natural disaster. And on behalf of every American, of course, let me just express profound concern to those residents of Florida.
But the military is moving, and there's meetings right now to further enhance this mobilization. So help is on the way. It will be a major effort because the National Guard in Florida, according to the Governor, has been fully mobilized now. I think we saw half the troops mobilized as of yesterday, but even that, with a lot of troops, have not been able to handle this job. So the Federal Government is not only prepared to assist but is in this instance very eager to assist. So that will be underway, and relief will be forthcoming very, very soon.
Q. Mr. President, what will the role of the troops be? Is there a problem of looting there?
The President. No, I think the Florida Guard has done a good job in the security aspects. And I think these troops and these facilities will be used for sanitation, for feeding, for housing, tents, for example, and to bring that kind of relief to the people.
Thank you all very, very much.
Q. Do you want to talk about politics a little bit?
The President. I'd better not right now.
Note: The President spoke at 5:40 p.m. at the Toledo Express Airport prior to his departure for Washington, DC.