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HUNDREDS MOVE TO TENTS AS FLORIDA CLOSES SCHOOLS

A decision to close schools used as shelters for victims of Hurricane Andrew pumped new life into military tent cities that had gone wanting for tenants.

To help south Florida inch closer to normality, Red Cross officials decided the 11 schools should be closed Sunday so they can be readied for the start of classes.That prompted hundreds of people to move into tent cities set up last week by the Army, raising the population of the five camps from 1,000 to more than 2,000 people, said Army Lt. John Buckley. The camps have a capacity of about 3,800.

At the Harris Field camp in Homestead, the new arrivals eroded the already scant privacy campers had in the 16-by-32 foot tents, which hold 14 cots each.

"It gets pretty crowded in here," said Lorenzo Walker, 30. "There are people snoring, people talking in their sleep. You're sleeping with 14 strangers. I don't like it very much, but I guess they feel the same way."

Earlier Sunday, the Army announced it would not build any more tent cities because the existing camps were not filled.

Nancy Retherford, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said the schools, some damaged by the storm, need to be repaired and cleaned in time for classes to start next Monday, two weeks later than originally scheduled.

"We feel it's real important that the kids get back into school. It will put a normal pattern back into their lives," she said.

The storm left an estimated 250,000 people homeless. Many are staying with friends or relatives or living in the ruins of their houses rather than move into the tents.

Two weeks after Hurricane Andrew smashed through southern Florida, the 27,000 soldiers tending to devastated communities have been joined by an army of private contractors and volunteer builders.

Highways that would have been jammed with Labor Day weekend vacationers were packed instead with people heading to flattened Homestead, Florida City, Perrine and other cities.

Dan Eastman, 32, arrived Friday night after driving 26 hours from Enfield, Conn., with a load of tarpaulins for emergency roofing. He discovered a roofer's heaven, with prices matching the demand for an estimated 50,000 new roofs.

"Every roof I've seen has damage. I've never seen anything like this," he said.