Archive for Sunday, September 14, 2008

Massive search in order after Ike

High waters slow rescue efforts, which could last for days

September 14, 2008

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— Hurricane Ike flooded thousands of homes, blew out countless windows and left millions without electricity in Texas and Louisiana on Saturday as authorities took to boats and helicopters to help rescue people stranded by the rising water.

The storm claimed at least two lives in Texas after rumbling ashore in Galveston at 2:10 a.m. CDT as a 110-mph Category 2 cyclone, but officials said the death toll could rise in the coming days, and damage cleanup will likely take six months or longer.

The full extent of the damage - or even a rough sense of how many people may have perished - was still unclear, in part because the storm left many roads impassable. And the possibility remains that Ike could become a disaster in slow motion, with thousands of victims trapped in their homes, waiting days to be rescued.

"The unfortunate truth is we're going to have to go in and put our people in the tough situation to save people who did not choose wisely," said Andrew Barlow, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "We'll probably do the largest search-and-rescue operation that's ever been conducted in the state of Texas."

Perry mobilized 7,500 National Guard troops, Coast Guard helicopters searched for flood victims, and Houston Mayor Bill White said firefighters and police officers started responding to emergencies as soon as conditions became safe Saturday morning.

"It looks like a bomb went off over there," Houston Police Officer Joseph Ledet said as he looked up at the 75-story JPMorgan Chase Tower - Texas' tallest building - and its shattered windows. "Just destruction."

About 2 million people fled coastal communities before the storm made landfall, but another 140,000 chose to ride out the hurricane at home.

On Saturday more than 900 rescues had been conducted in Texas. Louisiana officials had no report late Saturday on the number of rescues.

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