Ike Leaves Houston Lacking Power, Food, Water

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Rescue teams continue to comb through wreckage in Galveston, Texas, looking for victims of Hurricane Ike. By Sunday afternoon, nearly 2,000 people had been taken off the island and bused to shelters in other cities. But the hurricane's damage wasn't confined to the coast.

In Houston, nearly 2 million people remain without power, and that was only one frustration for the city's residents. They say there are not enough shelters, no sites to pick up food and water — and they're just not getting enough help from local and federal officials.

After Ike had passed, federal officials said 5 million liters of water and millions ready-to-eat meals stockpiled in northern Texas were on the way. But as Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff faced reporters late Sunday afternoon in Houston, the trucks hadn't arrived yet, and that put him on the defensive.

Mindful of public outrage over the slow federal response following Hurricane Katrina, Chertoff stressed that it had been just 24 hours since weather conditions were safe enough for 18-wheelers to move into the city. He added that it wasn't until early Sunday morning that FEMA was asked to assume the duty of handing out supplies to weary Houstonians, who are emerging from their hot and powerless homes searching for water, ice and gasoline.

"This is a shared responsibility. We all play a role in this. We all wind up backfilling sometimes if an unanticipated problem comes up, and I think that's the spirit with which we're going at this thing," Chertoff said.

Two Houston area congressmen complained about the delays in getting the FEMA supplies to residents, and Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson blasted federal officials for leaving emergency personnel at two staging areas without food and water.

Houston Mayor Bill White said he wasn't even informed that FEMA was taking over food and water distribution. For now, he says, he's willing to wait and see whether FEMA can do it.

"If they won't do it, we will find somebody to supplement what FEMA can do to get the supplies here," White said.

By nightfall, trucks were moving out of Houston's Reliant Park toward five distribution points set up throughout the greater Houston area. Guards at the gate would not say where the trucks were going or what was inside.

Late Sunday, officials announced the location of five distribution centers they say will be ready to start handing out water, ice and meals at 10 a.m. Monday, and that 12 more will be up and running in the next few days.



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