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CONGRESS MOVES TO RUSH MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR STORM RELIEF PACKAGE TO BUSH

Storms affect Utah firms, A2.House-Senate bargainers say they could rush a multibillion-dollar relief package to President Bush as early as this week for people digging out from hurricanes Iniki and Andrew.

With Americans from the Atlantic to the mid-Pacific still homeless and dazed from the two super storms, negotiators from Congress' two chambers prepared Wednesday to fashion the final bill.On Tuesday, the Senate approved its own $10.5 billion measure on an 84-10 vote. (Utah's two senators, Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, voted for the bill.) The measure would provide loans, grants and other payments to residents of Hawaii, where Iniki struck Friday, and Florida and Louisiana, which Andrew pummeled on Aug. 24.

The House version calls for $8.8 billion in relief, including $520 million for farmers whose crops were destroyed by Andrew and $400 million for food stamps for people battered by the storm.

Bush late Tuesday amended his weekend disaster declaration for Hawaii to permit the federal government to assume 100 percent of the costs of certain recovery programs, waiving usual state and local cost-sharing requirements. He had taken the same action for Florida and Louisiana earlier.

The Senate bill contains $92 million to rebuild limited facilities at Homestead Air Force Base, the south Florida airfield that the president pledged to rebuild during a campaign-style trip there last month. That was far less than the $480 million Bush sought to begin reconstructing.

Meanwhile, residents returned to Kauai for their first heartbreaking look at the damage. Health officials warned people to bury spoiled food and issued instructions on digging latrines.

Limited water, telephone and electrical service were restored, and the first commercial flights resumed Tuesday, four days after Hurricane Iniki hit.

Duette Rochelle, a 67-year-old retired nurse who left her house last week, was on one of the first flights back. She returned to find her carport torn off the house and her garden ruined.

"I am just sick," she said. "I just don't have the heart right now to do anything about this."

Mayor JoAnn Yukimura rejoiced over the first shipment of 43 million square feet of plastic tarp to protect what remains of many people's belongings from rain. "In my opinion we are making real great progress," she said.

The mayor asked people on the island of 52,000 residents to be sure they really needed to come to Kauai before getting on a plane.

"We are all existing on a very skeletal infrastructure," she said.

Still, a sense of order was returning.

The Red Cross said 8,000 people were still in shelters, but the number was dropping daily.

Gov. John Waihee froze prices of vital consumer goods to stop price-gouging. "The practice is nothing more than capitalizing on human suffering," he said.

Homeowners carted trash, tree limbs and aluminum siding to their curbs. People lined up outside banks, which reopened Tuesday, and at markets and drugstores.

Phil Luttrell, who runs the Kauai Christian Academy, stood in the remains of his house and looked at the sky through what was once the roof. "If there is any time to be here and hang in here, now is the time," he said.