Bush Visits Wilma-Hit Florida, Thanks Volunteers

President Bush made a visit to hard-hit south Florida on Thursday to thank disaster relief volunteers and to ensure federal assistance to victims of Hurricane Wilma was being provided in a smoother fashion than the highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

“I wanted to thank all the volunteers who have come down to help the people in need,” said Bush, according to the White House. “And it's an amazing spirit after a disaster, and that spirit is the spirit of people willing to give of their time.”

To the millions without electricity and thousands who were short on other necessities, the President said that at least 6,000 people from out of state were working on getting the electricity back up “as quick as possible.”

“These people are working hard to get your electricity back on,” Bush said.

The President added, “Things don't happen instantly. But things are happening. Right here on this site people are getting fed. Soon, more and more houses will have their electricity back on and life will get back to normal. In the meantime, the federal government, working with the state and local government, is responding as best as we possibly can.”

According to the Baptist Press, an estimated 500 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are currently in the middle of South Florida’s Wilma-devastated regions, while 7,000 volunteers are still serving along the hard-hit Gulf Coast.

Fifteen Southern Baptist kitchen units are up and running, most of them parked on the property of cooperating Baptist churches in the hurricane-affected areas, reported BP. These include units at Bell Glade, Boca Raton, Clewiston, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale, Homestead, Key West, LaBelle, Miami, Naples, Sweetwater, Pompano Beach, Stuart and West Palm Beach.

During his visit on Thursday, Bush said he was “impressed by the deep compassion and care of our fellow citizens.”

“Out of these disasters oftentimes comes some good,” the president stated. “And one of the good that comes out of a disaster is it gives people a chance to love a neighbor, to help somebody in need.”

After striking south Florida on Monday, Hurricane Wilma left 14 people dead and more than 6 million without electricity. About 4.4 million were still without power on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Wilma also killed 18 others in Haiti, Mexico and the Bahamas.