Health crisis likely after Ike

Just days after Ike hit the Gulf, coastal Texas is struggling to fend off a health-care crisis.

In Galveston, water and sewer systems aren't working, its one hospital is closed and the city is littered with debris. Officials says one of the biggest challenges may be ensuring clean drinking water for the region.

“We're telling people who are here if they can leave, leave," Galveston spokeswoman Mary Jo Naschke said in a phone interview with

Despite several urgent calls to evacuate, 40% of the city's 57,500 residents opted to ride out the storm, which hit land as a Category 2 hurricane on September 13 with 110-mile per-hour winds. Most of Galveston is still covered by floodwaters, which have begun receding.

Access to clean water is the most pressing issue. Power failures can idle purification plants for weeks, seawater can make water undrinkable, and pipes have often been contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Tainted water can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Amid the destruction across the Texas area, seemingly impossible tales of survival have begun emerge. Many years from now, a small group of Hurricane Ike survivors will probably still be telling their grandchildren the story of how, on the night the storm flattened their island, they took sanctuary in a church — with a lion.

The full-grown lion was from a local zoo, and the owner was trying to drive to safety with the animal when he saw cars and trucks stranded in the rising floodwaters. He headed for the church and was met by a group of residents who helped the lion wade inside, where they locked it in a sanctuary as the storm raged. The water crept up to their waists, and two-by-fours came floating through broken windows. But the lion was as calm as a kitten.

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