AUGUSTA (AP) – U.S. Rep. Tom Allen said Thursday that pictures and statistics don’t convey the magnitude of the devastation in the Gulf states that were hit by Hurricane Katrina just over a year ago.

Allen, speaking in the State House, said he saw “mile after mile after mile” of destroyed homes during a recent three-day visit to the New Orleans area and Mississippi.

“The devastation is beyond belief,” said Allen, D-Maine. “The housing situation is incredibly precarious.”

The congressman traveled to the region with other House Democrats to view, at their own expense, the storm’s aftermath and meet with state and federal disaster relief personnel, local officials, business owners, community leaders and residents.

Allen said residents of the area are still facing major challenges, such as a health care system that’s been depleted by doctors and nurses leaving the area. He also said many people who lost their homes are not able to financially recover because insurance companies are only covering losses due to flooding, not wind.

Allen criticized the Republican administration for treating what he called an extraordinary catastrophe like an “ordinary disaster.” He believes the normal rules and regulations for disaster recovery programs need to be more flexible to address the proportions of Katrina’s destruction.

The congressman also believes that the levees that gave way during the storm’s are “only a piece of the problem.”

The government should consider ways to divert the lower Mississippi River so millions of tons of sediment that are washed downstream can shore up the delta area and barrier islands to help protect southern Louisiana from hurricanes.

Allen, a co-founder of the House Oceans Caucus, said the sediment now washed into the Gulf of Mexico could be used to restore the delta at an estimated cost of $15 billion over 15 years.

AP-ES-08-31-06 1454EDT

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