WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump will head to Texas next week to get a first hand look at damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which on Sunday dumped more rain on already drenched parts of the state in the south-eastern United States.
Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday, the White House said. “We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts and prayers,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Sunday as the president returned from a weekend at Camp David in Maryland.
The announcement came as the south-central US state experienced what the National Hurricane Center said was “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.”
“Texans need to be prepared for more heavy rainfall tonight,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a news conference. “This is going to be a historic rainfall if not an all time record.”
The slow-moving storm has deluged Houston, one of the country’s most populous cities, and claimed at least two lives.
Images posted on social media showed cars adrift in water as high as the eaves on some homes, with the storm set to remain over the state for several more days.
The storm’s centre moved to about 35 kilometres north-west of Victoria, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 65 kilometres per hour, the hurricane center said. The centre also said “unprecedented flooding” was occurring in south-eastern Texas.
Harvey, which made landfall Friday night as a category-4 hurricane but has since been downgraded, is expected to dump additional rain of 38 to 63 centimetres over the middle and upper Texas coast until Thursday.
“The National and State Guard have deployed 3,000 guard members,” Abbott said. They are involved in rescue missions in the hardest hit areas from Corpus Christi to Houston. Local agencies are also on the ground assisting in rescue missions.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, stopped flights Sunday due to flooding.
“All commercial operations have stopped until further notice,” the Federal Aviation Administration said on Twitter.
“Houston is getting the brunt” of Harvey said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long. The agency has 5,000 people in Texas and Louisiana assisting with rescue missions.
FEMA will be in the area for years helping with recovery efforts, Long said, calling the disaster “a landmark event.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner defended his decision not to evacuate the city.
“You cannot put 6.5 million people on the road. That is dangerous,” he said during a press conference. He also said officials anticipated a lot of rain but they did not know where exactly most of the rain was going to come down.
Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who served as commander of the task force responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas, said Harvey is of a much larger scale than Katrina was.
“I think what the lesson here is gonna be, we cannot leave people in a flood zone when a storm is coming and we know it is gonna stick around,” Honore told CNN.
Hurricane Katrina, a dangerous tropical storm that hit the south-eastern United States in late August 2005, caused destructive floods in New Orleans and neighbouring communities, killing approximately 1,800 people.
“Our top priority is to protect human life,” Abbott said during the news conference. He defended the mayor’s decision not to evacuate Houston. “Now is not the time to second guess decisions that have been made,” he added. -dpa