Md. completes evacuee effort

BWI receives its last Americans from Lebanon

July 29, 2006|By SARA NEUFELD | SARA NEUFELD,SUN REPORTER

In eight days, 4,492 passengers arrived on 19 planes. They received 5,784 meals and 3,822 "health and comfort kits," with such items as soap and shaving cream. In addition, 2,995 of them received travel information as they continued on to destinations around the country.

Yesterday, state officials declared their mission to help American evacuees from Lebanon accomplished as they closed the repatriation center at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The final flight of evacuees, carrying 197 passengers, arrived at 10:05 a.m. yesterday. By 1 p.m., the center began to shut down. By 3:30 p.m., few remnants of the previous days' flurry of activity remained, as the people who had been working nearly around the clock scrambled to get home for the weekend.

"We tore it down just about as quick as we set it up, maybe a bit quicker," said John Droneburg, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

After a call by the White House to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., state agencies began preparing to receive the evacuees July 18, after a repatriation plan already developed as part of emergency readiness efforts, Droneburg said. The first flight arrived July 20, about 6:30 a.m.

Over the course of the eight days, the center was staffed by about 250 workers and volunteers. A typical schedule for some, Droneburg said, was to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., only to return at 1 p.m. Others would work 12 hours consecutively.

They treated 85 passengers for ailments including dehydration, headaches and nausea, with dehydration being the most common, according to airport spokesman Jonathan Dean. Thirteen of those passengers were hospitalized.

The Red Cross provided meals and personal hygiene kits. In addition, Droneburg said, workers handed out $4,387 in cash assistance with repatriation funds.

Earlier this week, Congress passed a bill raising the $1 million cap on federal repatriation program funding to $6 million for this year. While state officials do not yet have an exact price tag for Maryland's efforts at BWI, they estimate that they will apply for $600,000 in federal reimbursement.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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