Warning over fresh flooding as Hurricane Harvey recovery begins

Authorities in Houston have warned residents affected by Hurricane Harvey more flooding is likely.

Nine days after Harvey ripped its way across Texas, areas of west Houston braced for more water - not from the storm but from controlled releases to relieve swollen reservoirs.

Crews were urging residents whose homes had already taken on water to flee, and that they were shutting off power in some areas.

"If you have water in your homes, I have issued a mandatory evacuation for them because it's dangerous for those who are choosing to live there," Mayor Sylvester Turner told NBC.

"But also, it's very, very dangerous for our public responders, first responders, who are needing to be out there, trying to provide protection to them," he added.

Meanwhile, officials in nearby Beaumont worked to repair its water treatment plant, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps halted.

The Army Corps of Engineers sent pumps, and an ExxonMobil team built and installed a temporary intake pipe to try to refill a city reservoir. Exxon has a refinery and chemical plants in Beaumont.

In Crosby, outside of Houston, authorities continued to monitor the Arkema plant where three trailers of highly unstable compounds ignited in recent days, sending thick black smoke and tall flames into the air. A Harris County fire marshal spokeswoman said there were no active fires at the facility, but six more trailers were being watched.

Elsewhere, people began burying the dead and taking steps towards recovery. Friends and family gathered on Saturday in Tyler to remember a former high school football and track coach whose body was found on August 28.

The storm has been blamed for at least 44 deaths. Fire officials in the community of New Waverly, about 55 miles north of Houston, said a six-month-old was missing and presumed dead after being swept away by floodwaters, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Houston's school district said up to 12,000 students would be sent to different schools because of flood-damaged buildings. Harvey flooding is believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County, which includes the nation's fourth-largest city.

About 200 people waved signs and shouted as they rallied on Saturday outside a still-flooded subdivision in the western suburb of Katy, demanding to know when they can return home.

Mr Turner has warned residents that their homes could remain flooded for up to 15 days because of ongoing releases of water from two reservoirs protecting the city centre. About 4,700 dwellings are in the area affected by Mr Turner's evacuation order, but hundreds have refused to leave.

The school district assessed its own losses. Twenty-two of its 245 schools had extensive damage that will keep them closed for months. Though school is set to start on September 11, more delays could come.

President Donald Trump made his second visit to the devastated region on Saturday. He and first lady Melania Trump met evacuees sheltering at the NRG Centre in Houston, where they spent time with children and helped to serve food. Later, they helped load trucks with relief supplies at a suburban church. They also visited Lake Charles, Louisiana, to survey damage.

About 1,000 evacuees remained at the George R Brown Convention Centre, down from a peak of about 10,000.

Mr Trump has asked legislators for a $7.9billion dollar down payment towards Harvey relief and recovery efforts - a request expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, which returns to work on Tuesday after its summer break.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called that a simple "down payment" on recovery funding he expects to soar past $120billion.

Harvey came ashore on August 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, then went back out to sea and lingered for days off the coast as a tropical storm.

The storm brought five straight days of rain totalling close to 52 inches in one location, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental US.

Another storm churned far out over the Atlantic. Hurricane Irma was on a course that could bring it near the eastern Caribbean Sea by early this week. The Category 2 storm was moving north-west at nearly 13 mph. No coastal watches or warnings were in effect.

AP


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