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Archive for Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hurricane victims living ‘like cavemen’ after Rita

September 28, 2005

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— Nearly four days after Hurricane Rita hit, many of the storm's sweltering victims along the Texas Gulf Coast were still waiting for electricity, gasoline, water and other relief Tuesday, prompting one top emergency official to complain that people are "living like cavemen."

In the hard-hit refinery towns of Port Arthur and Beaumont, crews struggled to cross streets to deliver generators and water to people stranded by Rita. They predicted it could be a month before power is restored, and said water and sewer systems could not function until more generators arrived.

Red tape also was blamed for the delays.

Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz said, "We've had 101 promises, but it's all bureaucracy."

John Owens, emergency management coordinator and deputy police chief in the town of 57,000, said pleas for state and federal relief were met with requests for paperwork.

"We have been living like cavemen, sleeping in cars, doing bodily functions outside," he said.

Temperatures climbed into the upper 90s, and officials worried that swarms of mosquitoes might spread disease.

In Beaumont, officials briefed President Bush, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at his side, on relief efforts. Perry cautioned against criticism.

"There's always going to be those discombobulations, but the fact is, everyone is doing everything possible to restore power back to this area," Perry said.

About 476,000 people remained without electricity in Texas, in addition to around 285,000 in Louisiana. About 15,000 out-of-state utility workers were being brought to the region to help restore power.

Residents of some hard-hit towns were allowed to check on their homes but were not allowed to stay because of a lack of generators and ice.

About 2,000 Port Arthur residents who stayed through the storm were advised to find other places to live until utilities are restored. Ortiz said it could be two weeks before people are allowed back into Port Arthur.

In Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Hal McMillin said residents who come back would be without air conditioning, and risk insect bites and the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.

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