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Freighter crew safe after riding out Hurricane Ike

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  • NEW: Tugboat reaches stranded freighter
  • Ship's crew of 22 endures night without power in Gulf of Mexico
  • Coast Guard, Air Force had to abandon rescue because of poor conditions
  • Authorities onshore find it too dangerous to respond to calls for help
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(CNN) -- A tugboat on Saturday reached a disabled freighter carrying 22 people, hours after the ship rode out Hurricane Ike without power, Coast Guard spokesman Mike O'Berry said.

O'Berry said the tugboat Rotterdam arrived shortly before 2 p.m. (3 p.m. ET).

Repairs will be made aboard the Antalina, which has a broken fuel pump, while at sea, O'Berry said.

The tugboat will then tow the ship to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will undergo additional repairs and eventually offload more of its cargo -- petroleum coke, a petroleum byproduct -- O'Berry said.

The crew members aboard the Antalina, a Cypriot-flagged freighter, are all in good health, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Ron Labrec.

The freighter suffered no major damage from the storm, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the company that manages the ship.

Aircraft from the Coast Guard and Air Force were sent Friday afternoon to try to rescue the crew of the freighter, which is loaded with petroleum coke, a petroleum byproduct.

But high winds forced the military to abort the rescue, O'Berry said.

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The Coast Guard then instructed the freighter to contact it each hour. It also told told the crew to turn on the ship's emergency radio beacon so its position could be monitored, O'Berry said. Video Watch the Coast Guard conduct a rescue operation »

Onshore as well, rescuers found it too dangerous to respond to calls for help.

In Liverpool, Texas, south of Houston, a family called for help around 1 a.m. Saturday when a tree crashed into their house, but authorities concluded that strong winds made it too dangerous to respond, said Doc Adams, Brazoria County's emergency management coordinator.

"You want to take care of people, and when you can't, it's tough," Adams said.

"Unfortunately, someone has to make the decision about whether the risk is worth the benefit. Are you willing to risk three or four lives to save one? It's not easy."

Adams said he didn't know if anyone in the house was hurt.

"As far as I know, they're still there in the house with a tree over it," he said at about 3:40 a.m.

The stranded freighter had been headed south through the Gulf of Mexico from Port Arthur, Texas, but "lost main propulsion 90 miles southeast of Galveston" and was unable to steer, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard received a distress call from the vessel at 4 a.m. Friday. The Antalina was "basically adrift, at the mercy of the wind and sea currents," Coast Guard Petty Officer Tom Atkeson said at the time.

"We are in hell," one of the men aboard the freighter told CNN on Friday before the rescue was called off. The man said the winds around the ship were strong but that the freighter still had power.

On Friday before the storm hit, authorities picked up more than 120 people stranded by rising seas along the southeast Texas coast.

Most of the rescues occurred in Galveston County, where rising water and other effects of the storm began hours before landfall early Saturday.

Stranded residents were airlifted from Crystal Beach, Bolivar Peninsula and other communities in the Galveston area. Many of those rescued were motorists stranded on flooded roads.

In Surfside Beach, police waded through chest-high rushing water to rescue five people trapped in their homes. One man refused to leave, said Surfside Beach police Chief Randy Smith.

"Some of them took convincing, some of them didn't," Smith said.

Police also rescued five other people who waded out to meet the officers.

About half of those rescues were done by helicopters out of bases along the coast, said Coast Guard Petty Officer David Schulein.


Three HH-65C helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Houston rescued more than 20 people and continued to fly rescue missions until weather grounded them Friday evening, said Petty Officer Renee Aiello, a station spokeswoman.

Some 37,000 people may need to be rescued in the aftermath of the hurricane, a U.S. military official estimated Friday. Texas already has asked for help, and the active-duty military has 42 search-and-rescue helicopters on standby, the official said.

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