Marathon search goes on for Harvey survivors

A dog being rescued in Rose City, Texas, on Thursday from floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey. In Beaumont, 118,000 people have been left without drinking water after floods disabled the system in a city surrounded by swollen rivers and bayous, cu
A dog being rescued in Rose City, Texas, on Thursday from floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey. In Beaumont, 118,000 people have been left without drinking water after floods disabled the system in a city surrounded by swollen rivers and bayous, cutting off most roads.PHOTO: REUTERS

Rescuers take on risky missions; water, food supplies low while escaped animals a danger

PORT ARTHUR (Texas) • A week after Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas, rescuers are keeping up a marathon search for survivors as large pockets of land remain underwater and new dangers appear.

In hard-hit Houston and nearby areas, an expanding house-by- house search yesterday took rescuers on risky missions that could push the known death toll from Harvey beyond at least 46 victims, some of whom died trying to rescue others.

In Beaumont, 118,000 people were left without drinking water after floods disabled the system in a city surrounded by swollen rivers and bayous, cutting off most roads. Yesterday, the situation remained dire. Fire rescue captain Brad Penisson said the city was setting up water distribution stations, and that restoring drinking water had become its most urgent priority.

Some 65km to the south-west, in Anahuac, employees at an alligator farm circled their flooded property in boats, with guns at the ready. There were 350 alligators inside, and their pens were flooding.

"They were very close to getting out," a police officer said.

In the air, Environmental Protection Agency planes sniffed for toxic-chemical releases. Below, there was floodwater that the authorities warned could contain pollutants and pathogens. In between, there were the authorities and regular people trying to find order and supplies in a landscape totally changed by the massive storm.

"We are running low on water and food," said Sergeant Lam Nguyen of the Port Arthur police, who was overseeing a command centre in a Walmart parking lot. He was wearing a red polo shirt instead of his usual police uniform, which was lost when his home flooded.

"Our shelters are filling up. We are getting them food, for now, but we are running out of food. We're doing all we can now."

A Black Hawk helicopter landed nearby every 30 minutes, bringing in newly rescued people.

Sgt Nguyen paused. "We are in trouble," he said.

At least 34,000 people were scattered among dozens of shelters, which included two huge convention centres, mosques, schools and at least 11 First Baptist Churches in 11 small Texas towns.

The Harris County Flood Control District put it into staggering perspective: At the height of the flooding, 70 per cent of the county's nearly 5,000 sq km were covered with at least 0.5m of water.

As parts of Houston dry out - exposing daunting expanses of muck, vehicles and waterlogged buildings - people were trying to go back to homes they had fled, as the local and state authorities issued an array of warnings to those residents returning home: Do not eat anything that came into contact with floodwaters; check for wildlife, including snakes, and visit homes in daylight.

Anxiety was also rising about yet another hurricane. The storm named Irma is building strength on the open Atlantic, but forecasters said it was still far too early to know whether its path would lead it towards the United States

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS, NY TIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'Marathon search goes on for Harvey survivors'. Print Edition | Subscribe