The American Red Cross is off to a record-setting pace in its drive to bring shelter, food and safe drinking water to the tens of thousands of Americans impacted by Hurricane Katrinas assault on the Gulf Coast.

"It was obvious even before Katrina made landfall in Mississippi that this storm was going to inflict a monumental blow to the Gulf Coast," said Joe Becker, senior vice president, preparedness and response for the American Red Cross.

"This is the largest response to a single natural disaster in the 125 years of the American Red Cross, and theres no doubt it will set many records in terms of the length and expanse of the operation. This will test our skills and our resources to the extreme, but the American Red Cross will be just as strong as the will of the American people, and we all know thats a will that wont fail," Becker said.

From late Aug. 25, when Hurricane Katrina first slammed into the southeast coast of Florida through 5 p.m. Sept. 4, the Red Cross had opened 470 shelters and evacuation centers in 12 states and had sheltered 135,535 men, women and children. The shelter census of 118,556 for the night of Sept. 3 sets a Red Cross record for one-night accommodation. Nearly half of that shelter population--56,387--was housed in 74 centers in Texas, with an additional 41,135 in 133 shelters in Louisiana and 12,870 in 102 shelters in Mississippi.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has served more than 2.6 million meals and more than 3.3 million snacks to storm victims and rescue workers. In addition to the food being provided at shelters, tens of thousands of people are being served from 249 Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

In order to accomplish this level of relief, nearly 5,000 trained Red Cross disaster specialists have been deployed in 13 states and at the Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Recruitment is continuing and local chapters across the country are expanding training for thousands of spontaneous volunteers who are willing to make the priceless donation of their time and skills to this enormous humanitarian outreach.

With families, friends and colleagues scattered in the face if Katrinas fury, the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross have established the "Family Links Registry" to enable people to re-establish those essential relationships. Within 24 hours, more than 20,000 people had registered their whereabouts, and the website was receiving a tidal wave of visitors. The "Family Links Registry" can be accessed through http://www.redcross.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-LOVED 1S (1-877-568-3317).

The nation, if not the world, has been turning to the Red Cross website, www.redcross.org, as a source of information about the humanitarian response to the hurricane crisis. On one day alone, more than 1.1 million different viewers accessed the site more than used it during the entire month of December 2004, when usership soared after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

"The pace of the outpouring of generosity is inspiring, as Americans open their hearts to the plight of their neighbors," said Becker. "The American Red Cross is committed to channeling this generosity and good will to the survivors as fast as we can."

American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of this and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting http://www.redcross.org .