Houston has imposed an overnight curfew beginning on Tuesday night for an indefinite period amid incidents of looting, armed robberies and people impersonating police officers, city officials said.
The curfew will run from midnight after initially being ordered for 10pm, Mayor Sylvester Turner told a news conference on Tuesday evening.
A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. AAP
The city is also bringing additional police from other regions. “You cannot drive, nor be in any public place. We have had problems with armed robberies, with people with guns and firearms,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The city is opening several additional emergency shelters to alleviate crowding at the convention center, which has 10,000 people. Some of those will be moved to a nearby concert hall and basketball arena.
Round the clock rescue
Four days after Harvey slammed onshore as a monster Category Four hurricane, turning roads to rivers in America’s fourth-largest city, emergency crews are still racing to reach hundreds of stranded people in a massive round-the-clock rescue operation.
Eager to strike a unifying tone as the country faces the first natural disaster of his presidency, Trump landed with first lady Melania in the coastal city of Corpus Christi, which bore the full brunt of Harvey’s fury, for a briefing by state and federal officials leading the relief effort.
Emerging from the meeting held inside a local fire house, Trump climbed up on a ladder for an impromptu address to the mix of supporters and banner-waving protesters gathered outside.
“We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you,” the president called out. “It’s historic, its epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas – and Texas can handle anything.”
Trump earlier expressed hope the Harvey response would come to be seen as a textbook case.
“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” he said.
The US leader was not planning to visit Houston – swathes of which remain under water – and his spokeswoman said his schedule would be fine-tuned to avoid disrupting ongoing recovery efforts.
But he was nevertheless seeking to make a political statement, learning from the mistakes of former Republican leader George W. Bush, whose response to Hurricane Katrina – which walloped New Orleans exactly 12 years ago – was widely seen as botched.
Houston mayor confirms police officer died in Harvey’s aftermath
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Tuesday that a city police officer died in floodwaters over the weekend while driving to work.
“While I’ve encouraged other people to stay at home, our first responders they have been working 24 hours, 24-7, on behalf of the people of the city of Houston,” the mayor told reporters. “At the same time, they have been putting themselves in harm’s way.”
“Today, I’m sad and deeply saddened to announce the death of Sergeant Steve Perez,” he said, adding the 60-year-old officer died Sunday.
0:00 Rescue operations continue during widespread flooding in Texas Share Rescue operations continue during widespread flooding in Texas
More than 8,000 people have been driven into emergency shelters across the Lone Star State, and hundreds more still await rescue.
“We’re Trumponites. I trust he’s going to take care of us,” said Darla Fitzgerald, a 58-year-old nurse based in a Red Cross shelter in Winnie, a town east of Houston, where the rain fell heavily Tuesday.
Ray Henrichson, a white-haired 74-year-old shelter volunteer, was equally upbeat.
“I think it’s nice that he’s coming,” she said.
“He’ll probably fly around in a helicopter and see some flooded lands which we saw on the way driving here,” she said. “It is pretty dramatic.”
Harvey is known to have left at least 11 people dead and officials warned the danger has far from passed.
Rising floodwaters breached a levee in Brazoria County south of Houston, with officials urging residents of the 50 homes in the immediate vicinity to leave immediately.
“The levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!!” the county government tweeted. “GET OUT NOW!!”
The US Army Corps of Engineers has already moved to open the Addicks and Barker dams — under pressure from what the agency has dubbed a “thousand-year flood event” — to prevent a catastrophe on the outskirts of Houston.
People push a stalled pickup to through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. AAP
With neighboring Louisiana squarely in the storm’s path, Harvey, now a tropical storm, is pressing eastward and is expected to make landfall again late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
Residents of low-lying New Orleans — which bore the brunt of Katrina’s wrath in 2005 — are bracing for heavy rain and flash floods.
RELATED READINGSouth Texas Project nuclear plant running despite Harvey storm
The two nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project plant 90 miles from Houston are operating at full capacity despite calls from watchdog groups for the facility to shut due to Tropical Storm Harvey, a spokesman for the plant said on Tuesday.
“We’ve got significant rain but flooding has not been an issue here,” spokesman Buddy Eller said in a phone call.
The reactors, 44 percent of which are owned by NRG Energy Inc, provide 2,700 megawatts of power to 2 million customers in Texas. The rest of the reactors are owned by the city of San Antonio’s CPS Energy utility, with 40 percent, and the city of Austin’s Austin Energy, with 16 percent.
0:00 Houston inundated by water as Harvey pummels Texas Share Houston inundated by water as Harvey pummels Texas
New Orleans ‘a wild card’
“The single greatest threat continues to be the rainfall,” Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, told AFP, describing the situation as “catastrophic.”
“This is not over,” he said.
The National Weather Service tweeted Tuesday that Harvey appears to have broken a US record for most rain from a single tropical cyclone, with 49.32 inches (125.27 centimeters) recorded at a gauge southeast of the city.
The Texas bayou and coastal prairie rapidly flooded after Harvey struck the coast on Friday, but the region’s sprawling cities where drainage is slower were worst hit.
0:00 Mass rescues in Houston Share Mass rescues in Houston
Highways were swamped and homes were rendered uninhabitable, with power lines cut and dams overflowing, sparking massive floods across Houston — a city of 2.3 million people — and its wider metropolitan area of six million.
Houston can expect two to four more inches of rain as the storm moves away, but flooding will likely linger through the week, meteorologist Eric Holthaus told AFP.
In New Orleans, as of Tuesday morning, two inches of rain had already fallen over the city famous for its jazz music and Cajun cuisine – but particularly vulnerable because it lies below sea level.
“It is really sort of a wild card right now,” Holthaus said.
“There are some forecasts for up to 10 inches of rain over the next 36 hours or so for New Orleans. I would definitely not be surprised if it became more than that.”
Federal officials estimate that up to half a million people in Texas will ultimately require some form of assistance – but for now the focus remains immediate disaster relief, with many lives still at stake.
“Recovery is a slow process,” Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said as he welcomed briefing Trump in Corpus Christi along with Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Long said.
0:00 Widespread devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey Share Widespread devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey