Coast Guard rescues more than 65, prepares for aftermath of Hurricane Ike

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard rescued more than 65 people and several animals Friday while continuing to prepare for post-hurricane operations as Hurricane Ike approached the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Coast Guard helicopters rescued more than 65 people stranded on Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston, Texas, as storm surge waters flooded the area. Coast Guard and Department of Defense aircraft searched the peninsula for other people requiring assistance. Several pets were evacuated along with their owners as flood waters threatened lives.

The Coast Guard, along with the U.S. Air Force, mounted an attempt to rescue 22 crewmembers from the disabled 584-foot freighter Antalina, but crews had to abort the mission as on scene weather had deteriorated to a degree that made the rescue too dangerous for the Antalina’s crew and too risky for the aircrews. A Coast Guard HU-25 Falcon jet was able to reach the Antalina, where the crew reported 80 knot winds, 20-foot seas and visibility as low as a half-mile. Two Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and two Air Force CV-22 Osprey’s were launched for the rescue effort.

The Antalina, located roughly 100 nautical miles southeast of Galveston, is on a one hour, radio communication schedule with the Coast Guard and has been instructed to activate its 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon to signal an emergency. The Antalina, loaded with approximately 11,000 metric tons of petroleum coke, had departed port to evade the hurricane, but lost propulsion while at sea.

Coast Guard personnel and assets continue to preposition to provide the swiftest possible response to calls for help as Hurricane Ike passes. Sixteen fixed-wing aircraft and 31 rotary-wing aircraft, along with aircrews and maintenance personnel, have been dedicated for Hurricane Ike operations.

Approximately 300 Coast Guardsmen relocated from Sector Houston – Galveston to Katy, Texas, to evade Ike and be prepared to respond as the storm passes. Even with the surge of personnel and equipment, the Coast Guard’s ability to provide immediate rescue during and immediately after the storm, will be degraded.

The Texas ports of Galveston, Port Arthur/Beaumont, Houston, Freeport, Texas City, Port Lavaca/Point comfort are closed with no traffic permitted without the approval of the Coast Guard Captain of the Port. These measures were taken to minimize Hurricane Ike’s impact to the ports’ infrastructure and to facilitate the restoration of the marine transportation system and the flow of maritime commerce following the storm.

According to the Port of Houston Authority, more than 7,500 ships called on the port in 2006 and more than 219 million tons of cargo were handled at the port in the same year. Of the 219 million tons of cargo, more than 95.8 million were petroleum and petroleum products.

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