"I've just received an update from Secretary Chertoff and other Cabinet Secretaries involved on the latest developments in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. As we flew here today, I also asked the pilot to fly over the Gulf Coast region so I could see firsthand the scope and magnitude of the devastation.
The vast majority of New Orleans, Louisiana is under water. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses are beyond repair. A lot of the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been completely destroyed. Mobile is flooded. We are dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in our nation's history.
And that's why I've called the Cabinet together. The people in the affected regions expect the federal government to work with the state government and local government with an effective response. I have directed Secretary of Homeland Security Mike Chertoff to chair a Cabinet-level task force to coordinate all our assistance from Washington. FEMA Director Mike Brown is in charge of all federal response and recovery efforts in the field. I've instructed them to work closely with state and local officials, as well as with the private sector, to ensure that we're helping, not hindering, recovery efforts. This recovery will take a long time. This recovery will take years.
Our efforts are now focused on three priorities: Our first priority is to save lives. We're assisting local officials in New Orleans in evacuating any remaining citizens from the affected area. I want to thank the state of Texas, and particularly Harris County and the city of Houston and officials with the Houston Astrodome, for providing shelter to those citizens who found refuge in the Superdome in Louisiana. Buses are on the way to take those people from New Orleans to Houston.
FEMA has deployed more than 50 disaster medical assistance teams from all across the country to help the affected -- to help those in the affected areas. FEMA has deployed more than 25 urban search and rescue teams with more than a thousand personnel to help save as many lives as possible. The United States Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue missions. They're working alongside local officials, local assets. The Coast Guard has rescued nearly 2000 people to date.
The Department of Defense is deploying major assets to the region. These include the USS Bataan to conduct search and rescue missions; eight swift water rescue teams; the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group to help with disaster response equipment; and the hospital ship USNS Comfort to help provide medical care.
The National Guard has nearly 11 000 Guardsmen on state active duty to assist governors and local officials with security and disaster response efforts. FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working around the clock with Louisiana officials to repair the breaches in the levees so we can stop the flooding in New Orleans.