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Houston crippled by flood; city sets up 'mega shelter'

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-08-29 09:04

Evacuations ordered as hurricane set to dump year's worth of rain in a week

HOUSTON, Texas - Tropical Storm Harvey was set to dump more rain on Houston on Monday, worsening flooding that has paralyzed the country's fourth biggest city, forced thousands to flee surrounding counties and swollen rivers to levels not seen in centuries.

Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, first hit land late on Friday and has killed at least two people. It has since stayed around Texas' Gulf of Mexico Coast where it is forecast to remain for several more days, drenching parts with a year's worth of rain in the span of a week.

Schools, airports and office buildings in Houston, home to about 2.3 million people, were ordered shut on Monday as scores of roads turned into rivers and chest-high water filled neighborhoods in the low-lying city.

Torrential rain also hit areas more than 240 kilometers away, swelling rivers upstream and causing a surge that was heading toward the Houston area.

Residents in low-lying areas along or near the coast line were ordered to evacuate and there was a voluntary order for people living close to the Brazos River, which was set to crest at a record high of 18 meters this week, well above its flood stage.

Brazos County Judge Robert Hebert told reporters the forecast crest represents a high not seen in at least 800 years.

"What we're seeing is the most devastating flood event in Houston's recorded history," said Steve Bowen, chief meteorologist at reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.

Total precipitation could reach 127 centimeters in some coastal areas of Texas by the end of the week, or the average rainfall for an entire year, forecasters said. Nearly 61 cm fell in a span of 24 hours in Baytown, a city home to major refineries east of Houston, the National Weather Service said early on Monday.

"Water started flooding our house and by last night we were unable to leave," said Maria Davila, one of about 1,000 people in a makeshift shelter at Houston's sprawling convention center.

Dallas will set up a "mega shelter" in its convention center to house 5,000 evacuees, the city said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the storm, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Harvey is expected to produce an additional 38 cm to 63 cm of rain this week in the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office used motorboats, airboats, Humvees and other vehicles to rescue more than 2,000 people in the greater Houston area on Sunday, a spokesman said.

The US Coast Guard and Houston police rescued hundreds more as residents brought boats and other water craft to staging centers to help and helicopters were deployed to save others stranded by the floods.

Jose Rengel, 47, a construction worker who lives in Galveston, helped rescue efforts in Dickinson, southeast of Houston, where he saw water cresting the tops of cars.

"I am blessed that not much has happened to me, but these people lost everything. And it keeps raining," he said.

"The water has nowhere to go."

Reuters - Xinhua

Houston crippled by flood; city sets up 'mega shelter'

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