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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Local groups rally to help the South

Seattle Times staff reporter

As the scope of the Hurricane Katrina disaster grew by the hour yesterday, volunteers and relief workers from the Pacific Northwest scrambled to join the response.

The Seattle-based districts of the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers, and the American Red Cross Serving King & Kitsap counties are sending staff to assist in relief efforts. And the Red Cross and other aid agencies are raising money to help people who have lost homes.

"People already are starting to find out how they can set up community fund-raisers," said Katherine Boury, a Red Cross spokeswoman. "It's still early, but it's hard to look away when you watch TV."

The King and Kitsap Red Cross so far is sending 22 volunteers who are trained and equipped for working at shelters and feeding large numbers of people.

The Seattle unit of the Army Corps of Engineers will help provide food, shelter and other support for Corps staff working to restore water and power, assessing structures, clearing debris and other activities. The Seattle unit had been designated as a lead for providing this support, so eight members of the staff had flown to the New Orleans area before the hurricane hit. The Corps plans to send two more people, with an additional 40 on call for possible deployment, said Nola Leyde, a public-affairs official.

The 13th Coast Guard District, based in Seattle, is expected to send helicopter pilots and possibly other support personnel, Lt. Cmdr. Andre Billeaudeaux said.

Some private relief agencies in the Northwest reported they are poised to send volunteers, said Barbara Agnew, a spokeswoman for Northwest Medical Teams.

Episcopal Relief and Development, which has a West Coast office in Seattle, will be working to help hurricane victims through the church's Gulf-state dioceses.

Secretary of State Sam Reed's office warned about the possibility of "scams of opportunity," or phony fund raising for disaster relief. Reed said people can call a state hotline (800-332-4483) to check whether a charity is registered. Or check www.secstate.wa.gov/charities for tips.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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