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After Ike – the Return, the Missing, and a Heckuva Job

Two weeks after Ike hit Texas, we are still only beginning to see the scope of the disaster. Some people are only now getting their first look at their old homes, the family and friends of the missing are asking questions about their loved ones, and FEMA appears to be returning to its awe-inspiring, post-Katrina level of incompetence.

Today is the first day former residents of the Bolivar Peninsula are being allowed to come in for look-and-leave visits. (Just clearing the roads and conducting basic searches kept things closed until now.) I say "former residents" because there are almost no residences there — not any more.

Cars are still buried in the sand. Only one lane is passable on the Rollover Pass Bridge.

But most noticeably, almost every house in sight has been picked up, pulverized or carried away.

Meanwhile, the search for the missing is becoming clearer. The hotline for the Galveston area has around 400 reports of missing people, and they’ve set up a "have you seen these people?" website, hoping to discover that the missing are simply out of touch. Working from the other direction, the Red Cross has its own "Safe and Well" website for the evacuees to let everyone know they are safe.

But FEMA, despite the progress they’ve made since their catastrophic meltdown post-Katrina, still can’t quite grasp the concept of disaster recovery.

FEMA says since Hurricane Ike, they have received more than 589,000 applications for aid here in Texas. While 250,000 applications are still pending, just under 11,400 have been approved. An overwhelming 154,000, have been denied.

"That’s disturbing," said Kathy Guillory with Congressman Nick Lampson’s office.

Guillory toured The Landings condos in El Lago where 80% of the residents here have been denied FEMA aid. Residents Kristen and Nick Stratos say they were turned down because the inspector considered the property livable, even though the city ruled it non-livable.

Read that again: city inspectors say the property is uninhabitable, yet FEMA expects people to live there. (So much for FEMA working with local authorities.)

FEMA claims that their mission is all about "preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation" when it comes to disasters. I see nothing there about "creating, sustaining, prolonging, and intensifying" disasters, but then what do I know? I’m just a pastor. Any minute now, I’m sure Bush will clear this up for me: "You folks at FEMA are doing a heckuva job. Really."

If Chertoff or Lieberman need a place to stay for a week or so in the Houston area, to check up on how things are going on the ground, perhaps the Stratos family could let them stay at their place.

I hear it’s quite something.

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.