ST. LOUIS - More than 4,000 Coast Guardsmen continue to save lives and assess the damage to waterways, aids to navigation, the environment and maritime transportation system infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Rita.
To date, the Coast Guard has rescued 120 people imperiled by flood waters and has medically evacuated two others from hospitals in the hurricane-impacted area. Coast Guard rescuers continue to work closely with local and state officials as well as the Department of Defense, to determine the number of people in need of rescue and to ensure help is delivered as swiftly as possible.
Two Disaster Response Units (DRUs) were dispatched to the Lake Livingston, Texas, area while three more DRUs were deployed to Port Arthur, Texas, to aid in relief efforts
. DRUs are equipped with flood punts that are able to navigate through flooded areas to rescue people and assist in recovery efforts.
Waterways assessment continues today as the Coast Guard works with the maritime industry to safely restore commerce. In Texas, the ports and waterways of Houston, Galveston, Freeport, Texas City, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Victoria Barge Canal and Port of Orange remain closed to vessel traffic, while the ports and waterways of Brownsville, Corpus Christi
and Port Lavaca are open.
In Louisiana the ports and waterways of Sabine Pass, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge
, Morgan City, Fourchon
, Houma, New Orleans, Venice, Plaquemines, St. Bernard Parish, Grand Isle and Port of Shreveport remain closed. The Lower Mississippi River is open however deep draft vessels are limited to daylight operations only below Head of Passes (mile marker 0.0). The Red River and Atchafalya River are now open.
Facility and vessel operators are reminded to check for updated port and waterway information via Coast Guard Broadcast Notice to Mariners and Marine Safety Information Bulletins, as port conditions continue to be updated.
Several barge breakaway incidents were reported in conjunction with Hurricane Rita including one in which barges reportedly allided with the I-10 bridge in Port Arthur and came to rest against the West Lake Railroad Bridge. Damage to the bridges was being assessed at release time.
Among the reports of damaged vessels are:
A Cameron Ferry assist tug sinking at the Bulk Terminal #4 at Port Aggregates.
Of the 38 Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) reported in the path of Hurricane Rita, eight are reported adrift.
Assessments to critical infrastructure continue but preliminary reports indicate major refineries in the area suffered only minor damage. Of the 819 manned oil and gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, 745 remain evacuated.
At this time, no major pollution incidents have been reported as a result of damage from Hurricane Rita. The Coast Guard received a report of approximately 24 oiled birds in Calhoun County, Texas. The source of the oil was attributed to runoff from streets where vehicles were caught in floodwaters.
The Coast Guard has received143, 96-hour, advanced notices of arrival for vessels calling on ports in the Houston and Galveston areas of responsibility. At this time there are no delays associated with these vessel arrivals as a result of Hurricane Rita.
The Coast Guard is working in concert with the maritime industry, state and local officials, U.S. Navy, Minerals Management Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the oil and gas exploration and production industry to open waterways and facilitate maritime commerce as soon as safely possible.