HAT TIP to Darwin Campbell at LoneStar Power Pages
How could FEMA leave thousands of black people stranded in New Orlean's flood-bowl in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina? In very much the same way they are now overlooking thousands of black people stranded along the Gulf Coast, in the wake of Hurricane Ike... same tragedy... same story... but the outcome could be worse.
Black residents feeling like “Castaways”
“No phone, no lights no motor cars, not a single luxury, like Robinson Crusoe, as primitive as can be”
HOUSTON- Houston has a real problem.
Many of its African-American men, women and children are having Katrina nightmares.
Only this time, they are not trapped in the Big Easy, they are trapped on the island called Houston.
It is these set of circumstance affecting thousands of residents who feel they have been left high and dry in dozens of homes and neighborhoods in the south Houston area.
On the dark streets and from house to house, the questions citizens are asking are:
Where’s FEMA? Where’s the help from Houston city officials?
CenterPoint Energy reported it had restored power to 500,000 customers but about 1.6 million are still in the dark.
Since her electricity went off after Hurricane Ike struck, Ashlie Vinson has spent her time worrying about how to care for and feed her three kids.
Living in a hot apartment with no water and ice, Vinson and her children, ages 6, two and one, are eating the last of their pre-packaged foods, wearing the same clothes and are running low on diapers and other basic paper items.
“It seems like it is every man for himself,” she said. “I am very disappointed with FEMA, the Red Cross and city officials. No one cares what happened to us here.”
According to her, the number of break-ins and lawlessness is increasing as days go by and she fears for her safety and the safety of her children.
For her, life has stopped, but her frustrations are growing with others who feel that no one is concerned about their plight.
“It’s a tough road ahead and I am not optimistic,” she said.
Debria Brown said her neighborhood has gone from the first to the third world in a matter of hours after Ike.
“We have been waiting, but no one has contacted us,” she said. “It’s a real mess down here and many of us are running low on supplies, have no gas or transportation out of the neighborhood,”
According to Brown, she has only seen helicopters pass overhead, but has not seen or heard from any representatives of FEMA, The Red Cross or the city of Houston.
People in the community have banned together and started the clean up process and are sharing goods, but still have no where close to secure needed clean water and ice.
She also contends that the media focus is more on Galveston than on the plight of inner city residents who were told to stay put before the storm hit.
The help stations are too far away for many of us with many being as far away as 15 to 20 miles.
“We need help now,” she said. “We need help here now.”
Jillian Brown and Kelly Vinson said resources are in short supply in the Pearland area.
Vinson said panic set in after people had a difficult time finding gas, water, ice and food.
“No one is talking to us, not FEMA or city officials,” she said. “Basic words on radio or in front of television cameras won’t do. We need action now.”
As she waited in line at the Phillips 66 near Meacham and the airport, she was one of 75 people lined up to get gasoline and frustrated that more is not being done.
“It may not look as bad as (Hurricane) Katrina was, but we sure are being treated like the people of Kartrina,” she said. “The words of the day are hurry up and wait. Officials don’t know the meaning of help.”
In her community, neighbors have started on their own and are pitching in to clean up hoping that help will soon be on the way.
Food and water is in short supply in Joseph Demouchet’s neighborhood.
“Time is the main issue,” Demouchet said. “Right now, we are patient and living off what we have, but who knows how long that can last.”
In one neighborhood, some elderly residents living in assisted living are without power disabled and without oxygen – The city is yet to respond to their needs.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “People should not have to live like this.”
Demouchet said waiting on FEMA and contacting them has been frustrating. Hours have been spent on the phone with little to no results. Even more frustrating than having no electricity is the lack of FEMA and Red Cross help stations that could provide a minimum amount of water and ice.
“We decided to pull it together ourselves,” he said. “If our government won’t help us, we decided to cooperate and help ourselves neighbor to neighbor.”
LUFKIN- As state officials focus on rescue efforts in Galveston, hundreds of residents from Beaumont and Port Arthur are sitting in shelter in Lufkin feeling forgotten and uncertain about their futures.
This week could be their last one in the shelter without more volunteers and financial assistance.
“I could never have imagined things being like this,” said Texas activist and filmmaker Ricky Jason. “Life is on hold and out of our hands and we have no one to turn to.”
Jason is living in a shelter with about 150 others from Beaumont, Port Arthur, Nederaland, Orange and Houston chased from their homes by Hurricane Ike last week.
“It appears Galveston is more important than Beaumont and Port Arthur,” he said. “Why is the media only focused on them, rather than us. Is it because we are Black folks needing help over here?”
According to Jason, residents face an uncertain future at the Keltys First Baptist Church Shelter in Lufkin because the FEMA, The Red Cross and state officials have not given any assurances that the shelter will continue to be open to stricken residents.
The shelter is operating on the bare minimums providing only the basics of shelter, bedding, hygiene and a minimum meal barely meeting basic daily nutritional requirements.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is demanding that FEMA respond quicker with help and assistance for displaced residents and continues to urge them to stay put.
“Residents who have evacuated, stay where you are,” said Gov. Perry. “The worst thing that could happen is for people who are in a safe area where there is food, water and electricity to return to communities that have yet to have essential services restored.”
Power companies in areas affected by Hurricane Ike continue to work around the clock to restore electricity. To date, power has been restored to 700,000 customers; however 2.2 million customers remain without power. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has launched a feature on its website to allow customers to check power outages by entering their utility provider and zip code at http://www.puc.state.tx.us/files/ike.cfm.
“We need help now because we can’t go home. We have no power, no sewerage and no water services,” a frustrated Jason said. “Now they are telling us we may not be able to stay here because of the lack of funding support for evacuees. I know what the homeless feel like now.”
Derrick Collins brought his family of 11 out of Port Arthur running from Ike, but now is worried that he may not be able to find shelter for his family after Wednesday.
“This is a communication issue and it makes me very upset,” he said. “FEMA is not talking to us, the Red Cross is not talking or helping us and don’t know what the future holds.
Both Jason and Collins said it is impossible to return to the city because officials are not allowing residents back in and damage to neighborhoods is so extensive that it could take another four to six weeks to restore power and services that could make conditions livable again in the cities.
“We feel tensions growing,” he said. “We want answers and we want it now.” As of Monday afternoon, 295 shelters were open throughout the state housing more than 34,000 evacuees; more than 720 truckloads of water and 560 truckloads of ice have been distributed throughout the storm-affected areas.
The State of Texas currently has 49 Points of Distribution (PODs) open. For a listing of the most current POD locations, visit www.governor.state.tx.us/hurricane/recovery/11167. The state will continue to supply resources as needed. There are also several FEMA-operated PODs open throughout the disaster area.
Texas residents who have been displaced by Hurricane Ike who evacuated to another state may call 1-877-541-7905 to reach the Texas 2-1-1 network and obtain information on how and where to apply for food stamp benefits or seek additional assistance.
Texas residents displaced by Hurricane Ike who evacuated to another area of Texas may call 2-1-1 from any Texas landline or Texas cell phone to obtain information on how and where to apply for food stamp benefits or seek additional assistance.
Janice Carrier, who lives in the shelter with her husband and grandchildren, said going back is not an option.
“We went back after Hurricane Rita and it was horrible,” she said. “Being here is far better than going back and I hope we are allowed to stay longer.”
She said the family groups have come together at the shelter and are trying to make the best of the situation.
While shelter personnel have been responsive, she worries that all that could come to a screeching halt without word from FEMA.
“They have treated us with dignity and respect,” she said. “The best part is we are with family. We have faith, feel blessed and will trust God to guide our steps.”