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Pattaya Daily News

14 September 2008 :: 13:09:11 pm 29025

Rescuing Ike Stalwarts A Race Against The Clock

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) ? Rescue crews canvassed neighborhoods inundated by Ike?s storm surge early Sunday morning, racing against time to rescue those who faced a second harrowing night trapped amid flattened houses, strewn debris and downed power lines.
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One team of paramedics, rescue dogs and structural engineers fanned out under a full moon on a finger of land in Galveston Bay. Authorities hoped to spare thousands of Texans ? 140,000 by some estimates ? who ignored mandates to flee Hurricane Ike from another night among the destruction. Some had been rescued, but unknown thousands remained stranded. Only four deaths had been blamed on Ike so far ? two in Texas and two in Louisiana ? and rescuers hoped to keep that tally from rising.

But roads blocked by waist-deep water and downed trees kept many rescuers at bay as they struggled through the largest search-and-rescue effort in state history, just a day after the Category 2 storm crashed into Texas with 110 mph winds.

Five-year-old Jack King escaped serious injury when storm surge sent a rush of water that washed out the first floor of his family’s Galveston home just two blocks from the bay.

“I falled in the attic,” Jack told paramedic Stanley Hempstead of his 10-foot tumble onto the garage floor. Jack and his family had taken refuge in the room, loaded with blankets and other supplies. As rescuers arrived, Jack gazed at a TV aglow with “The Simpsons.” The only evidence of his fall was a Band-Aid plastered to his closely-cropped hair, covering a gash.

“We just didn’t think it was going to come up like this,” said the boy’s father, Lee King. “I’m from New Orleans, I know better. I just didn’t think it was going to happen.”

Fortunately, Jack only suffered scrapes and bruises in the fall. The Kings had hoped that a family member would pick them up, but a paramedic told him the road inland wouldn’t be open for days. Lee King thought they could survive another night, but then their generator died. He ultimately decided the family was ready to leave.

Hempstead and other team members sailed through flooded streets Saturday, evoking thoughts of another disastrous storm that kept him working for 31 days.

“This brings back memories of Katrina ? a lot of torn up homes and flooded stuff,” he said of the infamous hurricane that struck New Orleans just more than three years ago. On one side of the Galveston peninsula, a couple of barges had broken loose and smashed into homes.

Everything from red vinyl barstools to clay roof tiles littered the landscape. Some homes were “pancaked,” the second floor sitting where the first had been before Ike’s surge washed it out. Only the stud frames remained below the roofs of many houses, opening a clear view from front yard to back.

Gov. Rick Perry’s office said 940 people had been saved by nightfall Saturday, but that thousands had made distress calls the night before. Another 600 were rescued from Louisiana floods.

“What’s really frustrating is that we can’t get to them,” Galveston police officer Tommie Mafrei said. “It’s jeopardizing our safety when we try to tell them eight hours before to leave. They are naive about it, thinking it’s not going to be that bad.”

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Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : World News

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