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Islanders urged to seek shelter

Residents and tourists stranded on islands after a dredge knocked out the only road link to the mainland were urged Sunday to abandon the 30-hour wait for a ferry and seek shelter from the cold. Only limited electricity was available on Hatteras Island, where a high school was turned into a shelter and a briefing point for information-starved victims of Friday's accident.

About 1,000 people, or one-fifth of the island's permanent population, flocked to Cape Hatteras School for an update from officials.

Residents and tourists were stuck on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands when a dredge smashed into the Bonner Bridge, the only road leading to the mainland.

The accident cut power to both islands and telephone service to Hatteras. Phone service was restored Saturday and limited electricity was available on the islands through generators. Power was restored Friday to Ocracoke, which has 500 permanent residents.

A half-hour ferry ride links Hatteras and Ocracoke. A 2{-hour ride links Ocracoke to the mainland. There was no wait Sunday for a ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, but there was a 600-car backup _ or a 30-hour wait _ from Ocracoke to the mainland, said Gwen White, Dare County public information officer.

"Folks on Hatteras should stay where they are," she said. "They can't get off of Ocracoke, so they're better off to stay in Hatteras."

The Hatteras school was turned into a shelter Saturday and 39 people took advantage of it that night. Among them was a family of 11 who were overcome by fumes from a heater in their camper. They remained in the shelter Sunday, White said.

"They've been treated. At least one is on oxygen," she said. "If there was a need to get them to a hospital we would airlift them out."