Trump in Texas as Houston hammered by Harvey

HOUSTON: US President Donald Trump arrived in Texas on Tuesday to survey the response to devastating Tropical Storm Harvey, the biggest natural disaster of his White House tenure, as officials in Houston struggled to manage the record-breaking rains.
The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to Texas, killed at least nine people, led to mass evacuations and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous US city. Some 30,000 people were expected to seek emergency shelter as the flooding entered its fourth day.
Officials in Harris County, where Houston is located, said reservoirs built to handle drainage water were beginning to overflow on Tuesday. They urged residents to evacuate as they released water to alleviate pressure on two dams, a move that would add to flooding along the Buffalo Bayou waterway that runs through the area.
Brazoria County, south of Houston, also called for immediate evacuations around a levee Columbia Lakes that had been breached by Harvey’s floodwaters.
Some 3,500 people already have been rescued from high waters in the Houston area with police, firefighters and National Guard troops continuing to try to locate those marooned in high waters.
“This is a storm of historic proportions. Not just to the city of Houston and not just to Harris County but to the entire region,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters, adding that city shelters would be open to all people fleeing the storm. “We are making ourselves available.”
The storm broke Texas rainfall records at one measuring site south of Houston, which recorded 49.32 inches of precipitation since the storm’s start. The rainfall is more than the region typically sees in a year and exceeds 48 inches recorded in 1978.
Multiple looters were arrested overnight, police said. Harvey has roiled energy markets and wrought damage estimated to be in the billions of dollars, with rebuilding likely to last beyond Trump’s four-year term in office.
Trump landed in Corpus Christi, near where Harvey came ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years. He could be seen talking with local disaster-response officials and was next headed to Austin, the state capital, to meet with officials.
Houston was not on his itinerary because much of it is impassable.
“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt the recovery efforts that are still ongoing,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters accompanying Trump on Air Force One.
While much of the damage in Houston has been rain-related, the storm’s winds picked up overnight, bending street signs and tearing at metal fences in the downtown.
Much of the Houston metropolitan area, where 6.8 million people live, remained underwater on Tuesday. Dangerous rescues went on through the night.
About 9,000 evacuees were staying at Houston’s George R Brown Convention Centre and Turner said his office had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assets to allow the city to shelter another 10,000 people.
“I’m just trying to stay strong,” said Julio Gamez, 35, who evacuated to the centre on Saturday night with his wife after floodwaters rose to within a foot of his roof. “Everything’s gone. We’ve lost everything. But at least we’re safe.”
Other shelters were set up in Dallas, about 402 km to the north, for about 8,000 people, and Austin, 258 km west, to take in 7,000 people.
The slow-moving storm’s centre was in the Gulf of Mexico about 183 km southeast of Houston by midday Monday. It was likely to remain just off the coast of Texas through Tuesday night before moving inland over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.
Since coming ashore, Harvey has virtually stalled along the Texas coast, picking up warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping torrential rain from San Antonio to Louisiana.
— Reuters