Harvey may top Katrina as costliest disaster for US govt

HOUSTON • The governor of Texas has predicted that Hurricane Harvey would exceed Hurricane Katrina as the US federal government's costliest natural disaster.

Mr Greg Abbott said he expected the storm's ultimate cost to exceed the US$120 billion that the federal government spent after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast 12 years ago. "When you look at the number of homes that have been mowed down and destroyed and damaged, this is going to be a huge catastrophe that people need to come to grips with," he said on CNN's State Of The Union talk show on Sunday.

In an interview with Fox News, he suggested that Texas could need up to US$180 billion (S$244 billion) in federal aid.

Meanwhile, Houston's faithful embraced the comfort of church on Sunday with their hearts heavy after Harvey's destruction.

And across the nation many Americans marked a "National Day of Prayer" for the storm's victims.

The nation's fourth-largest city is drying out after a week of flooding, but the immediate needs of many victims remained acute.

Many residents whose homes had flooded after record-setting rainfall were able to return over the weekend to begin removing soggy drywall, soaked carpets and ruined possessions.​

  • HUGE FUNDING NEEDED

    US$180b

    Possible cost of Hurricane Harvey.

Mr Abbott said that a years-long recovery lay ahead, and appealed to Congress to step up and approve huge funding for reconstruction. "The rebuilding process, this is where the long haul begins," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Meanwhile, the White House has asked Congress for US$7.85 billion for Harvey-related "response and initial recovery efforts", calling it a "down payment" on the long- term cost of recovery.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has said the administration will later seek an additional US$6.7 billion for relief from the storm that has been blamed for at least 42 deaths.

Congress returns today after a summer recess, with Democrats and Republicans under pressure to approve disaster relief.

And Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged people who had been planning to travel to the city not to cancel their trips, conventions or concerts, saying it was now 95 per cent dry. "Yes, it was a very serious storm, historic, unprecedented, but the city of Houston is open for business."

Houston is a centre of the US petroleum industry, with the surrounding Gulf Coast area home to about a third of the nation's refining capacity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Harvey may top Katrina as costliest disaster for US govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe