TEXAS – A week after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, some residents are returning home to assess the storm’s damage while others are bracing for rising water levels.
Fires broke out over two days at a Texas chemical plant flooded by Harvey and authorities say they expect more fires. Three containers burned since Thursday at the Arkema site in Crosby, Texas 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 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a joint statement.
Hundreds of evacuees from Port Arthur and Beaumont are taking humanitarian evacuation flights to Dallas, where more than 9,000 evacuees are being sheltered since last week.
Death toll hits 50
At least 50 people have died from the storm, including a high school football coach and a family of six whose van was swept away by floodwaters.
Other statistics only begin to hint at the scope of the punishing deluge and what the months of recovery will entail:
About 27 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas and Louisiana over six days. More than 72,000 people have been rescued. About 10% of the structures in Harris County were flooded, the county says.
Mayor: $75 million or more needed to remove debris
Ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Houston on Saturday, the city’s mayor made a public plea to the federal government: Advance money and other assistance quickly.
“We need immediately, right now, just for debris removal alone, anywhere between $75 million to $100 million,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told CNN’s “New Day.”
“We need housing assistance. We need an army of FEMA agents on the ground to be assisting people, not just in shelters, but (also) people who are in their homes, so we can get them financial assistance they need (so) they can start transitioning.”
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, $5.8 billion in individual assistance money was given to nearly 916,000 people affected by those storms.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that more than 440,000 people have registered for emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has approved $79 million to help victims of the storm.
Trump personally plans to donate $1 million to help storm victims, according to the White House.
As the government works to help those affected by Harvey, another storm, Hurricane Irma, is looming in the Atlantic as a threat to Caribbean islands — and potentially, by next week, to the United States.
Water level continues to rise
Flooding danger is far from over in places such as Beaumont, Texas, where residents are not only struggling with high water but also with a lack of flowing tap water.
After city officials said they had no timeline on getting running water to the city’s 118,000 residents, residents lined up Friday to pick up bottled water distributed by the city.
The city lost its water supply on Thursday due to rising waters of the Neches River. Abbott said in a press conference Friday the river’s water level is nearly 7 feet above the record and is still rising,
“The river … on the east line of our city should crest today, and it will start falling, (but) our biggest situation is the water supply is cut off,” Capt. Brad Pennison of Beaumont’s fire department said on Friday.
The loss of drinking water has forced an evacuation of patients from Beaumont’s Baptist Hospital. Patients in intensive care, including 11 babies born prematurely and three other newborns were airlifted or taken out of the city on ambulances. Fourteen patients were still awaiting evacuation Friday.
Houston mayor: Leave your homes
After living nearly a week in a flooded home, Isaac Davila left his home in Houston’s Barker Cypress neighborhood on Friday to get food and supplies for his family.
“We have electricity and we got running water but everybody is afraid to leave because of the looters,” said the 41-year-old Davila.
He is among an uncounted number of people who have managed to stay at their homes despite the floodwaters.
While the rate of rescues has slowed in Houston, firefighters and other emergency personnel are going door-to-door, looking for residents who are living in flooded homes and may need aid.
On Friday, the mayor urged west Houston residents whose dwelling are inundated to evacuate their homes.
Authorities have said floodwaters are not expected to completely recede in Houston for 10 to 15 days.
(Nicole Chavez, CNN)