September 19, 2008

Bush Surveys Storm’s Destruction

GALVESTON, Texas - Hurricane Ike has killed 47 people since hitting the Gulf Coast over the weekend, officials said Tuesday as President Bush surveyed the damage by helicopter and urged Americans to donate money to victims.

The massive storm stranded more than 30,000 evacuees in shelters and left about 2 million Texans without power. The storm earlier claimed more than 80 lives in the Caribbean.

Areas such as the resort barrier island of Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston, were almost completely wiped out. Authorities say a few hundred holdouts there will be required to leave in the next few days, and they are prepared to impose martial law if needed to empty it.

Mr. Bush, who drew scorn for his handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, warned against letting "disaster fatigue" slow donations when the need remains great.

He took an aerial tour of the damage, with his helicopter flying low along the Texas coastline. From the air, he could see homes left with only foundations, roofs torn from buildings, and roads and beaches strewn with debris.

The president's next stop was the island of Galveston, which was torn apart when Ike made landfall Saturday as a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds. After a quick briefing there, Mr. Bush left Texas after spending less than three hours in the region.

On the Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough, the county's top elected official, said there is a "hardy bunch" of roughly 250 people still trying to live there, including some "old- timers who aren't going to want to leave."

The Texas attorney general's office is looking into the legal options available to force the residents to leave, Judge Yarbrough said.

Officials say without food, gas, water and other necessities, living on the island is unsustainable and everyone needs to leave so recovery can begin. Residents will ultimately be able to return, but officials say they need to be ready for a marathon, not a race.

Originally published by Associated Press.

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