Bush OKs emergency declaration before Dean

CRAWFORD, Texas Sat Aug 18, 2007 7:48pm EDT

1 of 3. Hurricane Dean is pictured moving west in the Caribbean Sea in this satellite photograph taken on August 18, 2007. Hurricane Dean was on the verge of becoming a rare Category 5 storm on Saturday as it took aim at Jamaica, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the oil- and gas-rich Gulf of Mexico after pounding the eastern Caribbean, where it was blamed for at least three deaths.

Credit: Reuters/National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration/Handout.

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CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration for Texas to provide federal help if the state is hit by Hurricane Dean, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

The emergency declaration, which was requested by the governor of Texas, allows the federal government to move in emergency personnel, equipment and supplies now in the event the state is struck by the storm, he said.

The Bush administration was sharply criticized for a slow federal government response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, in August 2005.

"What's a result of Katrina is the federal government's pro-active stance to go to the states and say you have this option, come to us now and request it," Johndroe said.

"What has been put in place since Katrina for the best practices was the federal government going out early to the states and saying if you're not thinking about this already, think about it now, call us, get the paperwork going," he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with Texas to address "special needs populations" such as the elderly or people with special medical needs or transportation difficulties along the south Texas border, which is currently projected to be in the storm's path, Johndroe said.

Bush, who is vacationing at his Crawford ranch, was briefed twice on Saturday about Hurricane Dean, which is threatening to become a Category 5 storm and is taking aim at Jamaica and Mexico.

The U.S. ambassador to Jamaica is working with Jamaican authorities to provide U.S. support that may be needed, such as relief supplies like water containers, medicine and generators, Johndroe said.

U.S. emergency authorities are also reaching out to their counterparts in Mexico to assess if they will need assistance, he said.

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