Galveston stunned by Hurricane Ike's blow

GALVESTON, Texas, Sept 14 Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:44am IST

GALVESTON, Texas, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The bridge to Galveston Island is littered with yachts, kitchen tables and a large drowned dog. One couple flees to the Texas mainland on foot, their belongings stuffed into a baby stroller.

Despite living in a place known for a legendary hurricane in 1900 that killed 8,000 people, residents of Galveston are stunned by what Hurricane Ike has done to their lives.

Shunta Celestine rode out the storm with her three children in a brick home that she thought would survive Ike's fury when it made landfall early on Saturday.

It did hold but she lost her two cars and most everything inside the home.

"The water filled up so fast, everyone tried to go to higher ground, but it seemed the higher you got, the higher the water went," said Celestine as tears ran down her face.

"It was hell. We climbed on to the table, deep freezers, anything we could get on and then we prayed."

Block after block of the historic coastal community are flooded with a putrid mix of sewage and sea water.

Andrew Rourke, a firefighter, was on the island during the storm, got off duty at dawn on Sunday and came by his father's house to see how I fared.

"I expected to find some debris in the yard," said Rourke. "But this house is gone."

"The pictures are the only thing we can save, the rest is under water."

It is not known how many of the beach city's 60,000 residents ignored the mandatory evacuation order but thousands are believed to have stayed behind.

Many harked back to their luck in 2005 when Hurricane Rita prompted a large-scale evacuation but spared Galveston, making landfall 100 miles (160 km) to the east.

After Ike, some 2,000 residents have asked to be evacuated from the island, state officials said.

Celestine does not have food or water or power and the children walk around the water-soaked living room in a daze.

Her neighbor Brittney Majors came to the rescue with emergency meals and water. She moved to Galveston just a few months ago and works at Whataburger, a fast-food chain.

"Everything I had is gone," Majors said. "I have the clothes on my back, shoes on my feet. That's what I've got." (Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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