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Harvey Rescue and Recovery Efforts Continue in Texas

  • VOA News

A woman sits on a kayak that is floating on her friend's porch as the house is cleaned of possessions after Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.

Rescuers continued their search for survivors in Texas one week after Hurricane Harvey began sweeping through the Gulf Coast region, dumping unprecedented amounts of rain. Houston's mayor warned some residents that their homes might not dry out for weeks.

The storm has displaced more than 1 million people and killed at least 39.

As floodwaters began to recede Friday, some of the luckier Texans began returning to their homes to begin the sobering task of assessing Harvey's damage.

However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for more evacuations in western neighborhoods of the city, which are near two overflowing reservoirs. The Army Corps of Engineers was continuing to intentionally flood those areas to prevent dam and levee failures. Turner said up to 20,000 homes would remain flooded for another two weeks.

Houston-area officials said Friday that 156,000 homes had been damaged in Harris County, which includes Houston, the country's fourth most populous city.

The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump would visit Houston on Saturday, along with Lake Charles, Louisiana, which has also been battered by the storm, to meet with hurricane survivors. It will be his second visit to the region this week.

Houston police vehicles move through Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.
Houston police vehicles move through Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.

"The president and his homeland security team and the entire administration continue to focus on the lives and safety of those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

99 centimeters of rain

The National Weather Service reported that Houston was inundated with (99 centimeters (more than 39 inches) of rain in August, more than twice as much as the previous monthly record.

Meteorologist Jeff Lindner said Clear Creek, Texas, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Houston, had received the most rainfall: 120 centimeters (47 inches).

Meanwhile, a new fire broke out Friday evening at a chemical plant in Crosby, northeast of Houston, sending a giant plume of thick, black smoke into the air.

Fifteen public safety officers were hospitalized after inhaling fumes from chemical fires in Crosby on Thursday. Officials have established a 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) evacuation zone around the plant and have warned of the possibility of more blazes.

Officials in Beaumont, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of Houston, said Friday that the city had gotten back some of its municipal water service, which was knocked out by floodwaters. Officials were advising residents whose water pressure had been restored to boil their water before drinking it. Officials said they were also trying to bring in bottled water for residents.

Patrice Laporte looks to see how much water is in his house surrounded by Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.
Patrice Laporte looks to see how much water is in his house surrounded by Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, Sept. 1, 2017.

Immigrants

In Harris County, residents contemplated the daunting task of rebuilding their lives, with one group of people grappling with a special concern: Immigrants who were in the country illegally were afraid that if they applied for help, they would be arrested. Outreach workers were deployed to reassure them that they would not be detained when they sought help.

Houston's Turner had said earlier in the week that he would personally represent anyone arrested on immigration violations after seeking help.

Cesar Espinosa, executive director of Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle, an advocacy group known by its Spanish acronym FIEL, 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.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said it is "not conducting immigration enforcement operations in the affected area."

Housing

Nearly 780,000 Texans have been ordered to evacuate their homes and another 980,000 have fled voluntarily, according to federal estimates. Tens of thousands of people were packed into evacuation centers throughout the region.

Thousands of Harris County residents in shelters have lost everything, including their homes. Harris Country FEMA Director Tom Fargione said his agency's priority now was to relocate people who have lost their homes into some form of temporary housing.

An aerial photo shows damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017.
An aerial photo shows damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017.

Refineries

The storm shut about a fourth of U.S. petroleum refinery capacity, much of which is located along the Gulf Coast, and caused gasoline prices to spike ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Several refineries on the East Coast ran out of gasoline, raising fears that travelers would face fuel shortages during the three-day holiday weekend.

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

Harvey moves east

Harvey, which has lost its tropical cyclone characteristics, moved eastward Friday toward the Ohio Valley, the National Weather Service reported.

WATCH: Houston Flood Victims Include Pets

In a Twitter post Friday, Trump applauded the rescue and recovery along the Texas Gulf Coast and wrote of his plans to visit the region on Saturday.

Trump also said Friday that he expected to soon submit a funding request to Congress to help Gulf Coast victims recover from the storm. The request is expected to total about $6 billion.

Faith leaders place their hands on the shoulders of U.S. President Donald Trump as he takes part in a prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 1, 2017.
Faith leaders place their hands on the shoulders of U.S. President Donald Trump as he takes part in a prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Sept. 1, 2017.

Trump made the remark in an Oval Office during a meeting with religious leaders in which he thanked charitable groups for assisting the victims.

He also signed an executive order designating Sunday as a "Day of Prayer" for the victims of Harvey.

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