Comcast is setting up a communications center in Galveston, Texas—with computers and working phones—so residents stranded on the island by Hurricane Ike can contact their loved ones and apply for federal assistance, company officials said Thursday.
Comcast of Houston, a division that encompasses devastated Galveston, hopes to have its communications center up and running by Friday at the Island Community Center in the middle of town, according to Ray Purser, Comcast’s vice president of public relations in Houston.
There are an estimated 15,000 residents who are still in Galveston who did not evacuate before the storm. They are isolated, with no electric power, Internet or cell phone service, according to Purser.
“FEMA is passing out information, ‘Here’s how you can apply for assistance, go to FEMA.gov,’ but residents don’t have Internet access to be able to do it,” Purser said. “It’s really a desperate situation for many families there.”
So Comcast has set up a communications center.
“Today we have connected from our hub to the community center,” Purser said. “We bought 20 computers. We’ve got eight phones. We’ve got office supplies. You name it, everything’s set up to put this communications hub together for the community.”
Some clean-up has to be done, but Comcast hopes to open its generator-run communications center Friday.
As of Thursday, 53% of Comcast’s 750,000 customers in the greater Houston area were still without cable service, due to a combination of storm damage from Ike and widespread power outages.
That’s an improvement from Tuesday, when 67% of Comcast’s Houston customers were without cable service.
“We still have 1.3 million without power in the city,” Purser said.
Comcast’s Houston cable operation will be doing repair work over the weekend.
“We’re working through the weekend, into next week,” Purser said. “We are providing food for all of our employees. Part of the situation here is many restaurants still are not open. Gas is still hard to find. Long lines at gas stations. Traffic is heavy because the traffic lights aren’t working. So those kinds of things are still going on.”
Comcast has been able to re-open 12 of is 18 service centers in the Houston area.
“Customers are coming in, asking questions,” Purser said. “We’re doing a lot of hand-holding to our customers right now, really doing our best to communicate with them. We’re passing out free bottled water at all of our service centers. Really trying to do what we can.”