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2 Dead in Texas as Harvey Downgraded; Tornadoes, Floods Still Threaten

  • VOA News

A home damaged by Hurricane Harvey remains surrounded by flood waters, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas.

Tropical storm Harvey has left at least two people dead as flooding and tornadoes presented continuing danger for the residents of southeastern Texas.

The second fatality was a woman who died after apparently getting out of her car in flooded streets on Houston's west side, authorities said. Friday night, an unidentified victim died in a house fire in the town of Rockport, 48 km north of Corpus Christi.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least seven tornadoes have touched down in the Houston area since Friday evening.

The Port of Texas City said it expects to reopen within 24 to 48 hours after assessing for damages. The port closed on Friday as the storm was approaching. Vessels are still not allowed to move in and out of the navigation channel.

WATCH: Harvey Downgraded to Tropical Storm, 'Dramatic Flooding' a Concern

Death toll

In addition to the two fatalities, Harvey injured at least 14 people. In the area between Corpus Christi and Houston, many people feared that toll was only the beginning. Texas officials say they expect to find further victims, however, as the storm moves inland.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a Saturday news conference that "dramatic flooding" is still a major concern for authorities as areas along the coast continue to be drenched with rain.

“Our biggest concern is the possibility of 20 to 30 more inches of rain” in areas around Corpus Christi, he said. Corpus Christi is on the coast,south of the area where the storm touched down on Friday.

The National Weather Service in Houston called the flooding "catastrophic, unprecedented, and life threatening" Sunday and warned that it could continue into next week.

Torrential rains

Harvey, the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade, with winds of 209 kph at the time of landfall, has already dumped more than 50 centimeters of rain in some places and is predicted to move through a 600-kilometer-wide swath of the Texas coast.

The storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in southeast Texas, near the small town of Rockport not far from the city of Corpus Christi, slamming the state's Gulf Coast with strong winds and heavy rain over hundreds of kilometers of coastline. Since then it has gradually weakened.

"It's impossible not to feel overwhelmed," VOA's Celia Mendoza said Sunday from Houston. “Everything is closed. People are concerned about what is happening to them – to their neighbors, they’re concerned about their homes," she said, noting that many people were stuck where they work and trying to keep in touch with their families at home.

Tens of thousands of Texas residents have fled inland to avoid wind and flooding from the threatening storm.

A driver moves through flood waters left behind by Hurricane Harvey, in Aransas Pass, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017.
A driver moves through flood waters left behind by Hurricane Harvey, in Aransas Pass, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017.

Search-and-rescue operations

Abbott said more than 1,000 state personnel have been assigned to search-and-rescue operations and they’ve already made several rescues, hoisting people into helicopters to avoid floodwaters.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday to say that "great coordination" between multiple agencies has enabled thousands of victims to be rescued.

Rockport Mayor Wax, in an interview Saturday morning with the Weather Channel, said the hurricane hit his town “right on the nose” and warned of “widespread devastation.”

He said some schools, homes and businesses had been severely damaged – some were destroyed.

Early Saturday, more than 338,000 customers were without power due to the storm. By late afternoon, 200,000 customers were still without power. Emergency services in the communities where Harvey made landfall are also reporting a loss of cellphone service.

Abbott said it would be “several days” before outages can be addressed because wind speeds in the area need to decrease before electric crews can safely make repairs.

A man in a wheel chair leaves an evacuation shelter as Hurricane Harvey descends on parts of southern Texas, in San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017.
A man in a wheel chair leaves an evacuation shelter as Hurricane Harvey descends on parts of southern Texas, in San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is readying supplies and search and rescue teams at its regional coordination center in Denton, Texas to send out as soon as conditions permit.

WATCH: VOA's Turkish service talks to Texans preparing for storm

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