Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Floating bodies roundup

"After the water started going down the next day, I spent two or three hours clearing debris from the floor inside of the house to where I could get my wife down out of the attic," he remembered. "Then I climbed down a pole into the water and the mud and scavenged around and found a ladder where she could come down eventually. Then I walked the roads up there until I found enough water and stuff for us to survive." ... (Bolivar Peninsula survivor Frank) Sherman believes several close friends died in the storm, but officials have not confirmed any deaths on Crystal Beach.

Post-storm rescuers in Galveston and the peninsula removed about 3,500 people, but 6,000 refused to leave.

Nobody is suggesting that tens of thousands died, but determining what happened to those unaccounted for is a painstaking task that could leave survivors wondering for years to come.

Authorities concede that at least some of those who haven’t turned up could have been washed out to sea, as at least one woman on the peninsula apparently was, and that other bodies might still be found.

“I’m not Pollyanna. I think we will find some,” said Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough, the county’s highest-ranking elected official.

Pustilniks’ office brought in two refrigerated tractor-trailers to store bodies until autopsies are performed. One sat in front of the medical examiner’s office Wednesday morning with a sign on the side: “Jesus Christ is Lord not a cuss word.”

By the afternoon, five deaths had been reported in Galveston County: one man who drowned in his pickup, another found inside a motel, two dialysis patients who could not get to their treatment, and a woman with cancer whose oxygen machine shut down.

Many of you have probably seen the photo of Gilchrist, Texas showing complete destruction of the town of 750 people, save for one lone home. High-resolution satellite imagery made available by NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (Figure 1) confirm that of the approximately 1000 structures existing in the town before Hurricane Ike, only about five survived the hurricane. Approximately 200 of these buildings were homes, and it is thought that some of the residents attempted to ride out the storm in their homes. According to media reports, about 34 survivors from Gilchrist and the neighboring communities of Crystal Beach and Port Bolivar have been fished out of Galveston Bay in the past few days. Rescuers who have reached Gilchrist have not been able to find any victims in the debris because there is no debris. Ike's storm surge knocked 99.5% of the 1,000 buildings in Gilchrist off their foundations and either demolished them or washed them miles inland into the swamplands behind Gilchrist. Until search teams can locate the debris of what once was Gilchrist, we will not know the fate of those who may have stayed behind to ride out the storm.

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