Monday, September 15, 2008

Media lockout in hardest-hit areas?

Burnt Orange has the initial report -- with links to both Think Progress and Capitol Annex -- regarding Houston media's virtual lockout of certain areas of Galveston's west end and the Bolivar Peninsula, areas where the most severe devastation have been seen in some overhead aerials and video but little on-the-ground. Because there are less than ten deaths announced from Galveston -- fewer than in the Midwest -- there are some speculative and mostly unattributed sources trickling in, in absence of eyeball verification.

Today I got the infamous text-message-from-a-friend's-brother, someone who was allegedly part of the helicopter crew and emergency management team that ferried Gov. Perry from Beaumont to Galveston and then across to Bolivar, and then on to Port Arthur, Orange, and Bridge City, Texas. Perry viewed Galveston from the air, he reports, then peeled off while the rest of the helicopter convoy proceeded. The crew aboard the copters saw many bodies floating in the waters on both sides of the peninsula; they stopped counting them at 160. The sheriff on BP -- it is unclear to me whether this would be Galveston or Chambers County -- who lost his home at Gilchrist Beach wants state and local media to come in and view the calamity but state and federal officials are continuing to enforce the media blackout of the area.

I really have no idea whether this account could be accurate. Since there is no nearby morgue, medical examiner's office or even decent funeral home left standing to process so much as a fourth of this number of corpses, it seems implausible that some staging area could have been rapidly constructed to do. The logistics of transporting a hundred or more bodies off the peninsula without anyone knowing are exceptionally problematic as well: vehicles could only traverse west back to Galveston via a fifteen-minute ferry ride, or east up the peninsula and then north through High Island to Winnie, a trip of thirty minutes in the best of conditions. Those areas suffered severe hurricane destruction themselves, of course.

In addition there is some video at (I am unable to effectively access it) as well as the site. That's as local as media gets if it's not from Houston or Galveston, and if they saw any bodies floating, they didn't include it in their reports.

Still, we have a nonsensical number of deaths reported in Galveston so far, and I cannot find a report of even one fatality in Houston directly attributable to Ike:

The Galveston death toll brings the local total from Hurricane Ike to at least 11, including three unrelated deaths from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from generator use, officials said.

The Harris County Medical Examiner's office said today that three people - a 4-year-old boy and two men, ages 18 and 34 - died when generators were being used without proper ventilation. The three are unrelated and their identities are not being released.

The storm and its fallout are also believed responsible for several other deaths in Montgomery, Chambers and Walker counties from fires and fallen trees.

I suppose "generator asphyxiation" is Ike-related, but the story confuses Galveston with Harris County unless that is two separate trios of dead people in both places. Ike has fried my reading comprehension a little.

HPD pulls a body out of Braes Bayou near my house once a week, and the same for Buffalo Bayou and others around town when there is barely a decent rainfall. Concealing a large number of deaths would demonstrate extraordinary coordination and secrecy in the best of times, and that's not an accurate description of what's going on here right now.

Any evidence of bodies being "hidden" from the media, and thus the public, is a story far too large for this little blog to break anyway.

So what's the story? Anyone?

Update (9/16): Burnt Orange has another eyewitness report of many bodies, and Houston media reported from Bolivar Peninsula today (specifically Art Rascon of KTRK). He didn't see any bodies. One "official" pronouncement claimed the "floaters" were from cemeteries, but there aren't too many cemeteries on BP and besides, it's caskets that pop out of the ground during severe flooding, not bodies.

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