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Coast Guard Update: Houston Search And Rescue Efforts


The Coast Guard has been coordinating much of the search-and-rescue operation in and around Houston, so now we're going to hear from them. Joining us on the line is Coast Guard Captain Kevin Oditt. He is the commander of the Coast Guard in the Houston-Galveston area. Kevin, thanks so much for speaking with us.

KEVIN ODITT: Thank you, Michel, for having us.

MARTIN: Can you give us an update on how the search-and-rescue operations are going?

ODITT: Sure. We continue to do active search-and-rescue missions. And these missions have been going on since around 1 a.m. this morning. So this has been an all-hands-on-deck evolution. We're coordinating with our local and state emergency operations centers and federal partners in the response. So the Coast Guard, we've been bringing crews from all over the nation to help with this response.

So we currently have 13 Coast Guard helicopters here in the area doing search and rescue. We have a fixed-wing command and control aircraft. And we also have three flood response teams that are conducting rescues with unique shallow-water boats. And then they're able to actually go into neighborhoods and assist. So we're - and we actually are bringing in an additional seven Coast Guard helos from around the country to can lend assistance.

MARTIN: Do you have an idea of how many people are still waiting to be rescued?

ODITT: We don't have an idea of how many people are still waiting, but we have received over a thousand, possibly 2,000 calls here. And we work with emergency operation centers as they receive calls as well.

MARTIN: You know, to that end, the Coast Guard gave out several phone numbers for the public to call. And as you might imagine, we are hearing from people on social media or through whatever means they have to get in touch with us. And we understand that you are very busy, but that people are telling us that they've called these numbers and they can't get through. So what should people do right now if they do need to be rescued?

ODITT: Well, the most important thing is to stay calm and don't panic. And if they do need assistance, they need to continue to call 911. And then we did provide our Coast Guard Houston command center phone number. And in order to help to receive numbers, we're expanding some of those lines where we can. But the key - one of the challenges we ask - we're asking the public, please don't use social media if you're in distress because we're not able to monitor social media.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, I've been asking all our public officials this - what do you need? Or is there something you don't need? You already told us what you don't need. You're saying please don't use social media because you're not monitoring that. Is there anything else that you need that you'd like to talk about right now?

ODITT: We're receiving great response and support. Like I said, we're bringing in not only Coast Guard resources, but I know that Customs and Border Protection, I know that they have had two helicopters also that have been involved in active missions. So we're trying to get the resources in and support the state and local communities.

MARTIN: That is Coast Guard Captain Kevin Oditt. He's the commander of the Coast Guard in the Houston-Galveston area, and he was nice enough to take time out from his busy schedule to talk with us. Captain, thanks so much for speaking with us.

ODITT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.