NEW YORK (AP) – A convoy of 70 city buses, accompanied by an assortment of support vehicles and volunteers, departed lower Manhattan on Saturday morning for a 24-hour trip south to help evacuate victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The caravan, including another 47 vehicles from the city police and mass transit, was expected to arrive in New Orleans today to start ferrying victims of the hurricane out of the crippled Crescent City. They left from Police Headquarters, just a few blocks east of ground zero.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, cognizant of the nation’s outpouring of aid to New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the city “will help those who helped us.” The group that left Saturday will join members of the Fire Department, the NYPD and the city Office of Emergency Management already on site in New Orleans.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses will bring homeless residents of New Orleans to Dallas and Little Rock, Ark. The task force from New York is also carrying food, water and other supplies for the ravaged region.

On Sunday morning, another 30 city buses will head south from Staten Island. The buses will spend about one week in New Orleans, as will the 230 volunteer MTA workers and the 171 volunteer NYPD officers, said Bloomberg.

Although the city employees volunteered for the trip, they will be paid while helping out in New Orleans, the mayor’s office said.

The deployment of the buses may create limited service interruptions for city bus commuters, and the MTA will provide details on any changes over the next day, Bloomberg said.

On Thursday, city Fire Department sent three chiefs to Jackson, Miss., to help with command and control operations.

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