Saturday, September 02, 2017

Post-Harvey Problems Plague Texas As Funerals For Dead Begin

Donald Charles throws out a bag of damaged items from his parent's home as his sister, Cindy Charles, examines a salvaged guitar Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Houston. A native of Trinidad, their mother was on vacation back to the island, and has yet to be able to get back to Houston. Thousands of people have been displaced by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding since Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas last Friday.


HOUSTON, TEXAS (AP, SEPTEMBER 02, 2017) — One week after Harvey roared into the Gulf Coast, a Texas city struggled with no drinking water, fires kept erupting at a stricken chemical plant and funerals began for some of those who drowned in the floodwaters.

In Beaumont, Texas, home to almost 120,000, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water after the municipal system failed earlier this week. The second fire in two days broke out at the flooded Arkema plant in Crosby. Thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up Friday after two trailers of highly unstable compounds blew up.

And in Houston, friends and family gathered Friday evening to remember 42-year-old Benito Juarez Cavazos, one of 42 people whose deaths are attributed to Harvey. Cavazos came to Texas illegally from Mexico 28 years ago and was in the process of getting his green card.

"It's very unfortunate that right when he finally had hopes of being able to maybe go to Mexico soon to go see his family, it all went downhill," his cousin, Maria Cavazos, said. "Sadly, he's going back to Mexico, but in an unfortunate way."

President Donald Trump departed Saturday from Washington for his second visit to the devastated region. He will be in Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana, to survey damage. The White House said he would to talk to people affected by the disaster and meet with volunteers. Those elements were missing from his first visit on Tuesday.

Earlier Friday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs could keep thousands of homes flooded for up to 15 days. Residents of the still-flooded western part of Houston were asked to evacuate due to the releases from two reservoirs protecting downtown. The releases were expected to keep some homes flooded that had been filled with water earlier in the week. Homes that are not currently flooded probably will not be affected, officials said.

Some of the affected houses have several feet (meters) of water in them, and the water reaches to the rooftops of others, district meteorologist Jeff Lindner said. Turner pleaded for more high-water vehicles and more search-and-rescue equipment as the nation's fourth-largest city continued looking for any survivors or corpses that might have somehow escaped notice in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.

Search teams quickly worked their way down streets, sometimes not even knocking on doors if there were obvious signs that all was well — organized debris piles or full cans of trash on the curb, for instance, or neighbors confirming that the residents had evacuated.

Authorities considered it an initial search, though they did not say what subsequent searches would entail or when they would commence. Turner also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to process applications from thousands of people seeking government help. The mayor said he will request a preliminary aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.

The storm had lost most of its tropical characteristics but remained a source of heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding as far north as Indiana. National Weather Service meteorologists expect Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems over the Ohio Valley late Saturday or Sunday.

An estimated 156,000 dwellings were damaged by flooding in Harris County, or more than 10 percent of all structures in the county database, according to the flood control district for the county, which includes Houston.

Figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 87,000 homes had major or minor damage and at least 6,800 were destroyed. Harvey initially came ashore Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days. The storm brought five straight days of rain totaling close to 52 inches (1.3 meters) in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.

Far out over the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma was following a course that could bring it near the eastern Caribbean Sea by early next week. The Category 2 storm was moving northwest at nearly 13 mph (20 kph). No coastal watches or warnings were in effect.

Amy reported from Beaumont, Texas. Associated Press writers Johnny Clark in Beaumont, Texas; Brian Melley in Houston; Paul Weber and Will Weissert in Austin; Diana Heidgerd, David Warren, Jamie Stengle, Emily Schmall and Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas; Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.

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