The Coast Guard is alerting mariners along the Gulf coast from Tampa, Fla., to Galveston, Tx., to be on alert and report any sightings of debris possibly related to the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia to the Coast Guard.
There are no confirmed reports of debris in the Gulf of Mexico as of 5 p.m.
An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB) was transmitted to mariners via marine radio channel 16 (VHF-FM).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been designated as the lead federal agency for the search, find, and secure efforts in response to the loss of space shuttle Columbia.
Coast Guard ships, aircraft and personnel along the Gulf coast are standing by ready to assist and support FEMA as necessary.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard launched a Dolphin helicopter from its base in New Orleans to Shreveport, La., to assist the USAF in searching for debris.
Another Coast Guard helicopter from Houston transported two NASA officials from Houston to Palestine, Tx., to investigate reported debris there.
Anyone who believes they may have spotted debris from the Columbia should report it immediately to local Coast Guard, police or fire officials and to stay away from debris because of possible hazardous materials involved.
The men and women of the Coast Guard extend our condolences to the families of the Columbia crew. The Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, here, is coordinating Coast Guard support to FEMA as needed.