Texans struggle with Ike

HOUSTON — As the death toll rose to 47 from Hurricane Ike, the Bush administration attempts seem like a re-run of the disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina survivors. Already stories abound of poor FEMA response to the catastrophe which hit the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston, considered to be an area which strongly supported Bush in the past.

Mayor Bill White is up in arms over the lack of FEMA assistance. FEMA has failed to provide ice and food which it promised before the storm hit. White demanded that a federal supervisor with FEMA be fired for turning back two trucks on their way to Houston. One truck was filled with ice and the other with food.

As of this writing, many people are without water or have contaminated water, which means they have no drinking water and cannot flush the toilet or shower. CenterPoint Energy, the privately owned utility company which provides electricity to residents of Harris County has restored power to 550,000 customers, but another 2.5 million remain without power. Lines at gas stations remain long and many stations cannot pump gas because they have no power. The post office for my area is closed due to no power.

Texas AFL-CIO officials are delivering ice and water to union halls in Beaumont and plans are underway for Texas City as well.

There were reports on the local media that National Guard members had been stationed at a high school football stadium west of town just prior to the storm. On the day after the storm, people became aware that there were no provisions made to feed these troops. Even after enduring the horrible storm, residents in the area poured out to bring food and water to the starving National Guard troops in the stadium.

One Houston resident, who happens to be Muslim, gave this assessment, “I notice that large storms like hurricanes bring out the best in people. For example, we have an old woman across the street who would never speak to any of us. Yesterday she broke the silence and started talking with me … Another man was very helpful with all kinds of advice, while another family’s son lent us some metal clamps and even sold a huge piece of plywood to my wife so we could cover our large front window … Today (Sept. 15) many traffic lights were down due to an electrical power outage. By and large, the people were courteous to one another, waiting for their turns … Most gasoline stations were closed today. The ones that were open had long lines of cars. My daughter and I were in one such line for a very long time.”

In my neighborhood, there are some people who remain without power, some who lost power for a short time and some who didn’t lose power at all. Many of the people with homes with power received people from homes without power and provided shelter, TV and other conveniences to their neighbors without regard to ethnicity or cultural background. It was as if race as an issue had melted away.

It is wonderful to see the outpouring of love for one another among working people in the face of this awful catastrophe. It is maddening to see the contempt for working people expressed by the vicious Bush administration.

James Harrington and John Croft contributed to this story.