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Bush visits site of catastrophe

Bush thanked rescue workers for their relentless efforts

(Keystone Archive)

President George W Bush has visited the site of the former World Trade Centre in New York. Bush, who first inspected the area using a heavily guarded helicopter, then joined rescue workers among the ruins.

The US president, who was accompanied by New York's mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki, said he "admired" rescue workers' efforts to find possible survivors.

"Thank you for your hard work, thank you for making the nation proud," he told them with a loudspeaker.

Exceptional safety precautions were taken for Bush's visit to New York. After landing at a military base in New Jersey, Bush was first transported by helicopter, and later driven to the heart of New York in an armoured car, accompanied by 25 other security vehicles.

Added to that, fighter jets patrolled New York's airspace.

Prior to his visit to New York, Bush authorised the Pentagon to activate up to 50,000 US reserve troops and declared a state of emergency in the wake of Tuesday's attacks. The moves came after the Senate gave Bush the go-ahead to "use all necessary and appropriate force" in retaliation for the attacks.

The US president also decided to prolong his nation's hommage to the victims of Tuesday's attacks by maintaining all flags at half mast until September 22.

On Friday, Bush attended a memorial service in Washington as America held a national day of prayer and remembrance for the thousands of people missing in New York and Washington, since three hijacked commercial airliners smashed into World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Services were held across the country.

In his address, Bush spoke of America's resolve to fight terrorism, and honoured the firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center and the volunteers who helped to treat burn victims.

“Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history,” Bush said. “But our responsibility to history is already clear, to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”

Rescuers in New York

Rescuers in New York were continuing their search for survivors in the ruins of the World Trade Center. New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani said 4,763 people were still unaccounted for, and 184 were confirmed dead.

Authorities said 126 were missing at the Pentagon.

Searchers working through the crash site at the defence headquarters on Friday found the flight data and voice recorders from the American Airlines plane which smashed into that building, shortly after it left Dulles airport, with 64 passengers on board.

The US justice department released a list of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks. All had Middle Eastern names.

They commandeered four commercial airliners, and slammed two into the twin towers of the 110-storey World Trade Center in New York, and another into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.

The US has named the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, as the prime suspect behind the attacks, but say a number of suspected terrorist groups are being investigated. Police in a number of countries, including Switzerland, have joined in the search for the perpetrators.

Bin Laden has denied any involvement in the attacks, according to a spokesman in Pakistan. However, he described them as a “punishment from Allah”.

The House of Representatives is on Saturday due to rubber-stamp the vote in the Senate, giving Bush powers to retaliate for the attacks. The Senate also made available $40 billion for anti-terrorism and cleanup efforts. That sum was double the original amount requested by the White House.

swissinfo with agencies

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