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Idled U.S. federal emergency workers recalled as Karen threatens Gulf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency is recalling employees idled by the government shutdown as the U.S. Gulf Coast braces for Tropical Storm Karen, the White House said on Thursday.

Karen formed in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Thursday. Forecasters said it could become a hurricane before hitting the U.S. coast between the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana.

"FEMA has begun to recall currently furloughed employees necessary to serve functions of the agency that protects life and property as they prepare for potential landfall of Tropical Storm Karen," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing.

FEMA said in a statement it had activated its Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The statement did not say how many workers were being recalled. A FEMA official said 86 percent of the agency's 4,300 permanent employees were furloughed.

The U.S. government has been shut down since Tuesday in a standoff between President Barack Obama and Republicans in the House of Representatives over a landmark 2010 healthcare reform law.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal and Ian Simpson; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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