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Texans clamor for gas, food

GALVESTON, Texas - Rescuers flew into a hard-to-reach area of the swamped Gulf Coast on Monday and uncovered a devastated landscape: Hurricane Ike had obliterated entire subdivisons, and emergency crews feared they would find more victims than survivors.

It was the first time anyone had gotten a look at the damaged resort barrier island of Bolivar Peninsula, just east of hard-hit Galveston. Homes were splintered or completely washed away in the beachfront community that is home to about 30,000 people in the peak summer season.

'They had a lot of devastation over there,' said Chuck Jones, the leader of the task force that landed on the island.

Two days after Ike battered the Texas and Louisiana coasts before striking Houston, the death toll rose to 30 in eight states, many of them far to the north of the Gulf Coast as the storm slogged across the nation's midsection, leaving a trail of flooding.

A massive effort was under way across Texas to get food, water and ice to people who had no power. It could be weeks until the more than 2 million without power have their lights turned on again. Lines snaked for blocks down side streets at gas stations that had little fuel to pump, and thousands packed shelters looking for dry places to sleep.

'Quite frankly we are reaching a health crisis for the people who remain on the island,' said Steve LeBlanc, the city manager in Galveston, where at least a third of the community's 60,000 residents remained in their homes.

A line of at least 30 cars formed early Monday at a strip mall in Orange, a Texas town on the Louisiana state line east of Beaumont, a day after food and water were distributed there by the National Guard. But the line dispersed after state troopers told the gathering that supplies would be passed out elsewhere.

Wanda Hamor, 49, of Orange, was fifth in line with her 21-year-old son William. They were trapped in their house by floodwaters until Monday morning before they could venture out. They had run out of food Sunday night. They left for Hurricane Gustav on Labor Day and say they couldn't afford to leave for Ike or buy any more than $60 in food.

'He's diabetic and he has to eat four times a day,' she said of her son.

Mary Shelton, 71, and her neighbor Letha Wilson, 78, sat in their sport utility vehicle waiting to get supplies at a distribution center in Houston. 'We need some ice. What are we going to drink? Hot water?' Shelton said.

Houston, littered with glass from skyscrapers, was placed under a weeklong curfew. While spots of downtown had power, trees still blocked streets and restaurants and businesses were closed. Planes were taking off and arriving at the airports again, but there were some delays, and the normally bustling highways were nearly vacant at rush hour.