Hurricane Harvey: Massive evacuation, rescue operations underway in Texas

Marine Corps League member Jeff Webb, left, of Montgomery, Texas, and rescue diver Stephan Bradshaw, right, of South Carolina rescue a dog that was chained to a flooded porch as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey. (AP photo) Related News

Massive evacuation and rescue operations continue to take place in Texas that has been battered by Hurricane Harvey, one of the most destructive storms in American history that claimed over 50 lives. More than 185,000 homes were damaged and 9,000 destroyed as 42,000 people remain in shelters amid overflowing rivers and reservoirs, Texas officials said.

Amidst all this, death toll has crossed 50, Houston Chronicle quoted local officials as saying. “We just continue to pray that once the water starts receding and we’re able to do secondary searches and complete assessments of the interior of homes and businesses that the body count — that we know will rise — doesn’t rise significantly,” Houston Police chief Art Acevedo said.

Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25 in Texas, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches at one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental US.

One week after Harvey roared into the Gulf Coast, residents of a Texas city struggle with no drinking water, fires at a stricken chemical plant, curfews, and more evacuations. Fresh mandatory evacuation has been issued for west Houston residents who live along Buffalo Bayou and have water in their homes should leave, Mayor Sylvester Turner said yesterday.

Turner said engineers believe water has been released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in west Harris County and it will continue for at least 10 days and could last for as long as 15 days. He said personal safety and the strain on first responders are the primary reasons for the evacuation request. There are 4,700 dwellings in the flooded area, including houses and apartments.

An estimated 156,000 dwellings in Harris County — more than 10 per cent of all structures — were damaged by flooding, according to the flood control district. Dangers remain as the water recedes as mold can cause coughing and asthma attacks, making it dangerous for people with chronic breathing conditions. Experts have been urging residents to dry out their homes as soon as possible. Waterlogged material such as carpet and drywall must be removed.

While floodwaters are receding, Beaumont, a city of 120,000 east of Houston, was dealing with floods well above record stage and an interruption of water service that stretched into its third day Saturday. “This flooding poses an ongoing threat to Beaumont and the surrounding area,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a news conference. The city lost water pressure on Thursday when floodwaters disabled two pumps that send water to a treatment plant.

The water outage prompted city officials to begin distributing bottled water to residents on Friday. The river began receding Friday evening but still was about 16 feet above flood stage and 7 feet above record level yesterday. Fires broke out over two days ago at a chemical plant near Houston that was flooded by Harvey, and authorities said they expect more fires. Three containers burned since Thursday at the Arkema site in Crosby after Harvey’s floodwaters knocked out equipment used to keep the plant’s volatile chemicals cool, Harris County Assistant Fire Chief Bob Royall said.

Officials decided to let the remaining six containers catch fire and burn out rather than endanger firefighters, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a joint statement.

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