The governor of Kansas is speaking out regarding the strain the Iraq war deployment of the National Guard is putting on rescue and recovery efforts following a weekend of brutal storms, and the emergency management spokesperson for the state intimated that private contractors may soon be hired.
"There is no doubt at all that this will slow down and hamper the recovery," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, told Reuters Monday, speaking about the shortage of available National Guard resources.
"Not having this equipment in place all over the state is a huge handicap," Sebelius said.
At least twelve people died and dozens were wounded in multiple tornadoes across the state this past weekend. The worst twister, an F-5, destroyed an estimated 95% of Greensburg, Kansas, hometown to more than 1,500 people.
"We're getting pounded in Kansas. We have the need for National Guard in two different parts of our state now. This is really going to be a problem," Sebelius said.
According to Reuters, the governor said Kansas lacks about half the large equipment it could use for recovery efforts and debris removal, including dump trucks and front loaders. More than 20 percent of its Humvees and 15 of 19 helicopters were sent to Iraq, said officials with the Kansas National Guard.
Speaking on CNN Monday afternoon, Sibelius said Kansas only has about 900 National Guard troops currently in Iraq, and that the equipment shortage is the biggest hurdle to recovery efforts.
Kansas Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson reported that almost 70 Kansas National Guard troops were arriving in Greensburg on Monday to supplement the approximately 40 troops already on the ground.
Watson also said the state was rushing to hire private contractors to supplement the lack of available manpower and equipment working to clear debris.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said said other states were supposed to help provide resources in an emergency, and that the administration was doing what it could.
President George W. Bush has declared that the community is a major disaster area and has promised all help. "Our hearts are heavy for the loss of life in Greensburg, Kansas," Bush said in comments to the press after church on Sunday.
In related news, the AP reports that four soldiers from Fort Riley and a reserve police officer were arrested Sunday on suspicion of looting cigarettes and alcohol from a Greensburg store, state officials said. The soldiers had not been assigned to help in Greensburg, according to Sharon Watson.