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Coastal Texas holdouts facing forced removal

GALVESTON, Texas — About 250 people who withstood Hurricane Ike on a coastal sliver of land will be forced off it so crews can begin the recovery effort, authorities said Tuesday, vowing to invoke emergency powers to make it happen.

County Judge Jim Yarbrough, the top elected official in Galveston County, said those who defied warnings that they would be killed if they rode out the storm on the Bolivar Peninsula are a "hardy bunch" and there are some "old-timers who aren't going to want to leave."

The Texas attorney general's office is trying to figure out a legal way to force the holdouts to leave, Yarbrough said. Local authorities said they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get residents to a safer place.

The peninsula is too damaged for residents to stay, and with no gas, no power and no running water, there is also concern about spread of disease, officials said.

"I don't want to do it," Yarbrough said. "I'm doing it because it's in their best interests."

Authorities might never know whether people who tried to weather the storm were washed out to sea. So far, there are no confirmed fatalities, but Yarbrough and other officials said they didn't think that would hold.

Ike's death toll officially stood at 47 Tuesday, with most of the deaths coming outside of Texas.

Authorities confirmed nine deaths in the Houston area, all from post-storm debris-clearing work, house fires or carbon monoxide poisoning by generator use.

Three-quarters of Houston was still without power and residents still waited in line for hours on end for distributions of food, water and ice. The mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city complained that FEMA wasn't bringing in the supplies fast enough.

Officials didn't say when Houston would have power again, but a flow of people who fled Ike were cramming their way back onto freeways toward the city despite orders to stay away.