The Michigan Daily - Wednesday. September 30, 1998 - 7
..- _ , tw «
slowly fades away
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) -
The whirlwind that was Georges
began to disappear from the weather
map yesterday, but its story was still
being written: Rains drenched
Alabama and the Florida Panhandle,
and evacuees slowly returned to find
out what happened to their homes.
"I had waterfront property, water-
back property, waterside property,
watereverywhere property," said 43-
year-old postal worker Jayne Howell,
who found her brick ranch house in
Pascagoula awash in sewage, sea-
weed and branches.
Downgraded to just a tropical
depression, Georges and its down-
pours moved northeast, into Georgia
and South Carolina.
The hurricane wind that ripped
through the coast with gusts as high
- as 174 mph had dropped to 35 mph.
President Clinton declared the
entire storm-damaged swath a disas-
ter area and planned to visit as soon
as recovery operations allowed.
Power remained out to about
400,000 customers from Louisiana to
Rivers continued to overflow. The
Pascagoula River at Merrill rose
from 3.4 feet on Monday to 20.8 feet
yesterday and was expected to swell
to more than 26.5 feet later in the day,
nearly 5 feet over flood stage.
Along the river, sheriff's boats had
to rescue residents trapped by the
rts Some parts of the Alabama coast
had received 2 1/2 feet of rain in
addition to damaging wind. At the
Dog River south of Mobile, where
more than 100 boats capsized or were
damaged, crews raked broken wood
and other debris from the water.
After killing more than 370 people
in the Caribbean, Georges was
blamed for four deaths in the United
States: an elderly woman who died in
the heat while being evacuated from
New Orleans; two people who were
killed in Louisiana and Florida in
With friends and relatives encouraging her, Jodie Hamilton runs across the partially sub-
mnerged walkway of their home in the Pecan Subdivision of Pascagoula, Miss yesterday.
Stranded residents wait to be picked up by boat, as they got a view of Perdido Bay from both sides of their home. Residei
on the island became cut off in the wake of bay flooding from Hurricane Georges yesterday
hits Michigan missionarie s
fires caused by candles; and one per-
son who died in an accident on a slick
highway near Crestview, Fla.
Along the Gulf Coast, it will be
awhile before the damage is added
up. Some places suffered greatly, but
overall, Georges was not a catastro-
Still, the effects of the enormous,
slow-moving storm were immense.
"We just serve such a mighty God.
He's so awesome," said Betty Murray,
who owns Pas-Point Glass in
Pascagoula, where workers were fil-
ing a 40-by-100-foot patch of ropf
that had blown a half-mile away,
"Can you hear the wind, and nut
know who sends it? He can sta
and he can stop it."
Most interstates reopened, though
there was some flooding. Traffic
lights were down and military police
directed traffic. Utility crews worked
to restore power.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A mission from a Michigan
church had a close call when Hurricane Georges hit the
Caribbean island nation of Haiti, killing at least 147
people: Members hope to return at a calmer time.
Erma Welch of Flint had considered the Caribbean
*Sea, which stood just 20 feet from her hotel, the most
beautiful part of her stay in
But then came Georges "That ni t
and the tropical visit, made
with four other area resi-
dents to start a Bible school
in Haiti, was not quite the m nster"
"That night, the ocean
turned into a monster, and
* he was shakin' and shakin'
the hotel," Welch, told The
Flint Journal for a story yesterday.
Welch returned home Saturday. She was part of the
last team of theology teachers sent by Flint Faith Tech
International Bible School to start a chapter in a small
town about 15 miles from Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.
In Haiti since Sept. 10, the group of five teachers wit-
nessed Hurricane Georges on Sept. 22, most of them
from the beach-side hotel. A sixth person - a minister
who had left the United States on July 1 to supervise the
project - was staying in the church where classes were
Despite Hurricane Georges, which killed at least 147
people and left 60 others missing in Haiti, the group
graduated its class of 25 students Friday before flying
home. The hurricane killed at least 372 people in all.
Living through the hurricane was an unexpected part
of the trip.
Because English-language news broadcasts were
unavailable, the group had little idea of what was com-
ing its way. Patricia Crews of Flint said the group
watched as waves grew high enough to reach the third
story of the hotel.
"They would hit the cement barrier like a giant fist,"
Crews said. "Four minutes later, it would do it again,
Dominican Republic left in
shambles after Georges gpasses
over and over again."
The giant waves started about 5
Je Ocan p.m. About 8 p.m., Crews said, the
storm reached a point "where you
felt like it was going to get violent."
About 2 a.m., the electricity in the
group's hotel flickered out, leaving
occupants to listen to the roar of the
- Erma Welch storm.
Flint resident "You couldn't see it, but you could
hear it," Crews said. "It sounded like
five or six freight trains coming at you"
Bill Bennett of Flint heard the full force of the storm
from his small room in a church - including "the
biggest boom I ever heard" about 3 a.m.
Finally, at 5:30 a.m., he opened the door to look out-
side. Mud covered everything in sight, he said. Not a
trace remained of the 5 1/2-foot-tall, 30-foot-long con-
crete wall that was supposed to protect the church.
"It was just gone," Bennett said. "There was no rubble
- it was just gone. Where I was sleeping was about
eight feet from that wall."
Crews said she never worried about her safety. But she
said her family in Flint was frantic. Having no informa-
tion about her welfare, her husband contacted the
American Red Cross to request a search.
The church group finally reached a working phone
Thursday night to contact family members.
Crews said she plans to return to Haiti.
"Hopefully, in a calmer time," she said.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Just a few
hours before Hurricane Georges blasted this Caribbean nation
last week, the country's civil defense chief appeared on televi-
sion to reassure an anxious nation.
As the storm approached, newly appointed Civil Defense
Director Elpidio Baez discounted scientific projections that it
was likely to rip through the heart of the nation and its capital,
Sophisticated computers at the U.S. National Hurricane
Center in Miami that were predicting just such a route, Baez
said, were just plain wrong. They had misread Georges' course
before, he explained.
Forty minutes later, a trembling Baez again appeared on tele-
vision and gave the location of the government's emergency
hurricane shelters for the first time since the storm began bear-
ing down on the island: "I want to tell all the inhabitants of
Santo Domingo to immediately evacuate their homes and go to
the shelters.... Take cover."
But for many, it was too late.
Millions of Dominicans-and their government - were sit-
ting ducks for a monstrous storm that wrought such havoc on
this already impoverished nation that Dominican President
Leonel Fernandez announced Monday night his government
must now renegotiate its foreign debt to finance even the basics
of life for its 8 million citizens in the months ahead.
A full week after Georges demolished bridges, wiped out
entire barrios, ripped apart hotels and decimated crops, nearly
300,000 Dominicans remain homeless. At least 213 people are
confirmed dead, and nearly 100 are still missing - most of
whom disappeared when the government opened a dam that
was about to burst without first evacuating the villages down-
river, relief officials said.
It was a disaster, many here say, that was compounded by the
government's response to it. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez
Rodriguez, the prelate of this predominantly Catholic nation,
spoke for most Dominicans when he indicated to reporters last
weekend that the government could-- and should- have bet-
ter prepared its citizens for their worst natural disaster in 20
"I believe that lives can always be saved when precautions are
taken,"he said."And, in this case, it would have been preferable,
with more time, to take people to shelters, where they could
have been properly cared for."
The Dominican toll is the highest in the Caribbean, where a
total of 370 deaths --- most of the remainder in neighboring
Haiti - now are blamed on the storm. By contrast, only five'
died in Puerto Rico, which was devastated the day before. And
just three were killed in Cuba, where authorities evacuated-
200,000 people in advance of the storm.
"Today, we are much poorer even than we were before
Dominican economist Felix Calvo concluded in an essay pub-
lished today. "It is as ifa massive napalm attack had leveled he
"Now we must discover a new Dominican Republic." r
Added Paolo Oberti, the U.N. representative here:"Thisds-
aster is definitely going to worsen the situation. The poor-will
become miserable, and the miserable will become sub-miser
Economist Calvo estimated the total cost of the storm at near-
ly 40 percent of the country's $15 billion gross national product:
The government's damage estimate is much lower: $1.2
billion. But even the official figures testify to the potet-
tial long-term impact of the storm. At least 10 percent of
the hotel rooms in the republic's vital tourism sector were
So were most factories and power plants in a countfy
where chronic electricity shortages have triggered strikes
and social unrest even before the storm.
In President Fernandez's nationally televised speech Monday
night - apparently timed to pre-empt the first inning of the
Chicago Cubs' playoff game featuring Dominican national hero
Sammy Sosa - he unveiled' plans to raise $650 million to
rebuild the country.
Much of the money, he said, will be diverted from the gov-
ernment's foreign debt repayments after it reschedules them.
Tens of millions more will be deducted from the paychecks of
the government's highest-paid civil servants - officials Who
earn $12,000 a year or more. And Fernandez said still more will
come from foreign aid.
A delegation of U.S. Cabinet officials and legislators is
scheduled to arrive today to assess those longer-term needs.
Another U.S. congressional group here last Sunday indicated
Congress may appropriate as much as $30 million, for
Dominican relief in its upcoming budget.
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