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Houston Mayor Says His City is 'Open for Business'

  • VOA News

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, center, with Houston Texans Shane Lechler, left, and J.J. Watt, second right, distribute relief supplies to people impacted by Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Houston.

Houston, Texas Mayor Sylvester Turner wants the world to know that the city is "open for business" as it cleans up and assesses the damage from Hurricane Harvey.

"Anyone who was planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city, you can still come," Turner told CBS television's Face the Nation Sunday. "We want you to still come. We can do multiple things at the same time."

But for many who are in some water-logged neighborhoods, the word from Turner is still get out.

U.S. Army engineers plan to release water from two overflowing reservoirs in parts of western Houston to prevent dam breaks. The action will deliberately flood as many as 20,000 homes. Turner says anyone refusing to leave is not only putting their own lives in danger, but those of first responders.

Also Sunday, firefighters began a controlled burn of the remaining trailers of toxic materials at the Arkema Chemical Plant, in Crosby, Texas, near Houston.

A man disposes of drywall while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Sept. 2, 2017.
A man disposes of drywall while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Sept. 2, 2017.

Several storage facilities at the plant exploded and caught fire last week after the storm knocked out refrigeration that is supposed to prevent such fires.

Trump's visits

Neighborhoods near the plant had been evacuated and the Environmental Protection Agency says the deliberate burn is intended to avoid the "risk of additional damage to the facility spreading into the surrounding area.

Hurricane Harvey struck southeastern Texas as a Category 4 storm on August 25 and spent several days lingering around the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coast as a tropical storm. It dumped a record-breaking amount of rain. At least 44 deaths are reported.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said storm damage could he as high as $180 billion - 20 times more than the $7.85 billion in initial funding President Donald Trump asked Congress to approve.

Trump and first lady Melania were in Houston Saturday, visiting with survivors, serving meals, delivering supplies and reassuring Texans that his administration is there for them.

U.S. President Donald Trump lifts up a little girl as he and first lady Melania Trump visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief center in Houston, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump lifts up a little girl as he and first lady Melania Trump visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief center in Houston, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017.

Nearly 450,000 households in the hurricane zone have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency so far and the White House says anyone who needs help will get it.

Trump's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert has said he is "not worried at all that we won't have the money," and that no one who needs help will be turned away.

"No individual human being should worry about immigration status if you need food, water and shelter," he said. "No one will starve or die of thirst or exposure."Officials have reached out to those who may be in the country illegally and fear they would be jailed when applying for aid.

First lady Melania Trump helps a volunteer hand out meals during a visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief center in Houston, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017.
First lady Melania Trump helps a volunteer hand out meals during a visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief center in Houston, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017.

Turner, who was a prominent attorney before becoming Houston mayor, has said he would personally represent anyone arrested on immigration violations after seeking help.

Cesar Espinosa, executive director of Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle, said Turner's statement was a "big deal" for immigrants. "When they hear it from an official, they say, 'OK, now we believe it,' " he added.

The storm shut about a fourth of U.S. refinery capacity, much of which is located along the Gulf Coast, and caused gasoline prices to spike ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend. About 5.5 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's oil production, or 96,000 barrels of daily output, remained shut on Sunday. The total lost oil production is about 2.97 million barrels since Aug. 23.

Homes are surrounded by water from the flooded Brazos River in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, in Freeport, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.
Homes are surrounded by water from the flooded Brazos River in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, in Freeport, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.

Several east coast refineries have run out of gasoline, raising fears that travelers will face fuel shortages.

Concerns over supplies have led to the U.S. Energy Department authorizing the release of up to 4.5 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

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