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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dubya Opens the Government Bank Account to HURRICANE IKE RESCUE EFFORTS

Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday that state and federal officials were working well together in what he called the largest search and rescue operation in Texas history.

Help was "on the way," Perry promised as 57 helicopters took to the air and 1,500 people worked on the ground portion of the operation, according to state officials. The far-flung missions stretched from the Louisiana border to parts of Brazoria County.

By Saturday evening, the storm had made its way out of the state.

Perry's spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said late Saturday that since Hurricane Ike made landfall there had been 940 rescues statewide of people stranded in homes, vehicles or other places. Most of the rescues have been in Galveston and Orange counties, she said.

It wasn't known how many people were still stranded or missing, Castle said.

Jack Colley, director of the governor's division of emergency management, said state authorities were ferrying storm victims to prearranged locations where transportation and medical attention can be provided.

"Where we see people we're picking them up," Colley said. "We pick them up and we're moving them to designated places."

Officials said they helped coordinate, with the U.S. Coast Guard, the rescue of four critically ill patients from a Galveston hospital.

Meanwhile, Perry said the state is working well with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At a sports arena in Houston, tractor-trailers and large sport utility vehicles sat idle as the vast storm churned northward across the state. Stone said federal officials are now seeking to pinpoint the hardest-hit areas.

Speaking to reporters at the emergency operations center in Austin, Perry said state officials have been "working well with our federal counterparts, with our local counterparts." In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Perry issued blistering criticisms of the agency. But he said Saturday it would be premature to engage in any finger-pointing.

"If it's a perfect operation I'll be surprised," he said. "I think we've got a good operation to date." He said in advance of the storm the state had "prepositioned the largest search and rescue operation in the history of the state of Texas."

Perry also urged Texans who had evacuated to wait official word before returning home. He said residents who ignored warnings to evacuate Galveston would be allowed to stay but could not return if they left. Authorities said they would only allow emergency personnel to go to the island.

Officials said about a third of the people who dialed 911 for help spoke Spanish. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who appeared at the news conference with Perry, urged Spanish-speaking Texans — in their language — to contact local authorities for assistance.


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