Assessing Hurricane Ike Damage In Texas
LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. Rescuers along the Texas Gulf Coast continue to search for victims of Hurricane Ike today as officials begin to assess the damage caused by the massive storm. Millions are still without power, and thousands of homes have been flooded. We have several reports about the storm's devastation and its aftermath. First, to NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Houston. Mandalit, what's the latest news from Texas?
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Well, Liane, the major storm has passed, as you know, but it's raining heavily along the coast of Texas, and there are flash flood warnings this morning. Many of the roads and the freeways are completely impossible to drive along because they are either flooded, or there's debris, or uprooted trees, or live wires on them. There are reports of people who are trapped in their cars on the freeways and bridges, the people who ventured out. And in the hardest hit areas of Galveston Island and along the Gulf Coast, houses or cars are completely demolished and their contents are strewn all over the place from the ferocious winds.
Power is still out to 4.5 million people. That's more than 22 percent of the state. And most importantly, there's a massive search and rescue operation going on, what Governor Rick Perry called the biggest in the history of Texas. And through the flash floods and rains, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and FEMA teams and emergency workers are continuing to look for anyone who stayed behind. Even though there were mandatory evacuations, they announced 940 rescues yesterday. In fact, it's estimated that 140,000 people defied the evacuation orders. Last night one team of paramedics, rescue dogs, and structural engineers were out in Galveston Bay doing what they could. In other areas, people are trying to clean up what they can. They're using hand-powered generators. But without power and in the rain, that's pretty difficult.
HANSEN: What are officials telling people in the area?
DEL BARCO: Well, President Bush declared Texas a major disaster to free up money for federal aid. He's supposed to be here on Tuesday to express his sympathy. And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is in Houston today, and he's going to be touring the area. But officials are telling people to stay put where they are until the power lines and electricity and cleanup is done, but that might not be for a long time. The mayor of Houston, Bill White, says it's a major priority to get power on again. He says parts of the city will be restored day by day, but trees and poles are down. Food - debris removals have started. And the latest news is that the mayor announced an extended curfew, 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the entire city of Houston until next Saturday, not just the evacuated area. Remember, Liane, this is the fourth largest city in the country.
HANSEN: So, what are people doing right now to cope with all of this mess?
DEL BARCO: Well, the power's still out. Some people on the roads are stranded, like I said. Thousands of people who evacuated are staying with friends and family. But, you know, some others are camped up in shelters, RVs, motels, in the back of their pickup trucks, even a Wal-Mart warehouse, I heard. Some people are hoping to get back to Galveston Island to salvage what they can. But they might return to find their houses are gone. Of course, it's impossible to get there right now because of the floods. And in a lot of parts of Texas, people are coping with no electricity, no cell phone service, little food or water and gasoline. They're having to boil water just in case the water was contaminated. The airports are closed, so no flights in or out. Schools and businesses will be closed tomorrow, and, of course, there's that curfew in Houston and other areas. It's still really a mess here, Liane.
HANSEN: NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Houston, Texas. Thanks, Mandalit. Take care.
DEL BARCO: Thanks, Liane.