Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Cities deluged, 1m displaced by Harvey

‘BASICALLY AN ISLAND’:The US National Weather Service issued flood watches from Arkansas into Ohio as worries over health risks from water-borne bacteria grew

Reuters, PORT ARTHUR, Texas

Vehicles on Interstate 10 navigate through floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Vidor, Texas, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

A week after Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas, no let-up in rescue efforts was expected yesterday as large pockets of land remained under water after one of the worst and costliest natural disasters to hit the US.

The storm has displaced more than 1 million people, with 44 feared dead from flooding that paralyzed Houston, swelled river levels to record highs and knocked out the drinking water supply in Beaumont, Texas, a city of about 120,000 people.

Arkema SA and public health officials warned of the risk of more explosions and fires at a chemical plant owned by the firm.

On Thursday blasts rocked the facility, about 40km east of Houston and zoned off inside a 2.4km exclusion zone, after it was engulfed by floodwater.

With the presence of water-borne contaminants a growing concern, the US National Weather Service yesterday issued flood watches from Arkansas into Ohio as the remnants of the storm made their way through the US heartland.

The Neches River, which flows into Beaumont and nearby Port Arthur, was forecast for a record crest from yesterday well above flood levels. The flooding and loss of drinking water forced the evacuation of a hospital on Thursday.

“Beaumont is basically an island,” Beaumont Mayor Becky Adams told a news conference on Thursday.

The city, about 130km east of Houston and largely cut off by floods, was only able to receive one major supply of drinking water on Thursday and there were plans to set up water distribution centers yesterday, a city official said.

Harvey roared ashore late on Friday last week as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century. It was downgraded to a tropical depression as it headed inland on Thursday, dumping unprecedented quantities of rain and leaving devastation across more than 480km in the southeast corner of the state.

Moody’s Analytics estimated the economic cost from Harvey for southeastern Texas at US$51 billion to US$75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in US history.

Much of the damage has been to Houston, the US energy hub, whose metropolitan area has an economy comparable to Argentina’s.

At least 44 people were dead or feared dead in six counties, including and around Houston, officials said.

Another 19 remained missing.

About 779,000 Texans have been told to leave their homes and another 980,000 fled voluntarily amid dangers of new flooding from swollen rivers and reservoirs, US Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said.

Tens of thousands were in crowded evacuation centers across the region.

As floods began to recede in Houston, firefighters on Thursday began conducting a house-by-house search to rescue stranded survivors and recover bodies as some residents began to return to their homes to assess the damage.

Seventy percent of Harris County, which encompasses Houston and has a population of about 4.6 million people, was covered with 45cm or more of water, county officials said.

As signs of normal life returned to the city, the US’ fourth most populous, there were also concerns about health risks from bacteria and pollutants in floodwater.

The Houston Astros baseball team, forced to play away from the city due to the floods, is to return and play at its home field today.

It has invited shelter residents to attend its double header against the New York Mets, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter.

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