Candidates Respond to Ike's Devastation

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Both presidential candidates are urging prayer and assistance for those affected by Hurricane Ike Saturday, even as President Bush declared a major disaster in Texas in the wake of the Category 2 storm.

"The storm has yet to pass and I know there are people concerned about their lives," Bush said, during video conference with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Some people didn't evacuate when asked," Bush said. Tens of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana who did not leave may still have to be rescued.

"I've been briefed on the rescue teams there in the area. They're prepared to move as soon as weather conditions permit. Obviously, people on the ground there are sensitive to helping people and are fully prepared to do so," Bush said.

Ike battered the southeast Texas coast early Saturday with driving rain and high wind. Thousands of homes and government buildings are flooded, roads are washed out, nearly 3 million people lost power and several fires burned unabated.

In response, both presidential candidates issued statements about the storm, offering prayers for those who are in need and urging citizens to help.

"As another storm threatens the Gulf Coast, I'm praying for the safety of all those in Hurricane Ike's path and urge everyone to heed the warnings of local authorities and seek safer ground immediately," Sen. Barack Obama said. "Those who choose to stay are putting not only themselves at risk, but the emergency personnel working to ensure their safety. Now is the time to help those who want to leave but aren't able to - and once the storm passes, we must work to provide swift relief wherever it is needed."

Obama also canceled his plans appear on "Saturday Night Live" in the aftermath of the storm. He spoke by telephone Friday with David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Houston Mayor Bill White for updates on the storm.

Republican candidate John McCain was also briefed Friday by Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Texxas Gov. Rick Perry.

"Today, Cindy and I join every American in offering prayers and assistance to those along the Gulf Coast reeling from the damage done by Hurricane Ike," McCain said. "The scope of the destruction is not yet clear, but yesterday I was briefed. about the status of their response operation."

"I am increasingly concerned that there may have been a substantial loss of life," McCain said. "We do know that the economic impact from this storm will be severe. Like most Americans this morning, my concern has been reinforced by scenes of widespread flooding and ferocious winds. And like most Americans, I remain concerned about the impact this storm will have on gas prices across the country, but our priority now must be to help the relief effort in any way we can, and to pray for the safety of those in the storm's path."

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