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Council Orders Tsunami Evacuation Plan; Katrina Evacuees to Get MTA Passes

Times Staff Writer

Citing the problems New Orleans faced in evacuating people before Hurricane Katrina, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday adopted a proposal to do more to move people in flood-prone areas to higher ground during tsunami warnings.

The council directed the city’s Emergency Preparedness Department to develop a plan based on the recommendations of a task force formed after a devastating tsunami hit countries along the Indian Ocean in December.

“Certainly now, after Katrina, I don’t think we want to be caught flat-footed,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents San Pedro.

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The task force had urged the city to develop a notification system that Hahn hopes will involve sirens, educate the public about the threat and devise a smooth evacuation system, said Jenny Chavez, an aide to the councilwoman.

The chance that a tsunami might hit Los Angeles is a “remote possibility, but it is a real possibility,” Hahn said. She noted that in June, there was a brief “tsunami watch” issued for the California coast and said she discovered then that Los Angeles is ill-prepared to evacuate residents from the coast.

“We were not prepared on any level,” Hahn said. “We were not prepared to notify people, and we were not prepared to evacuate people.”

City officials said the plan should include a list of all residents in flood-prone areas and a way to notify them. Hahn also said signs should be prepared to mark evacuation routes from coastal areas.

Meanwhile, officials at Los Angeles City Hall continued to work on their response to the hurricane and ways to accommodate hundreds of evacuees expected to arrive in the city.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Friday that the evacuees will receive free Metro Transit passes to help them get around.

“It’s imperative that these newly arrived evacuees begin rebuilding their lives,” he said, “with access to public transit a key to finding more permanent housing and employment.”

The monthly passes allow the holder unlimited rides on all buses and trains operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The passes and information on the transit system will be distributed by the American Red Cross to evacuees arriving in Los Angeles.


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