Firefighters in the US state of Texas on Thursday began a block-by-block search for survivors in some of Houston’s most devastated areas while fires at a Crosby chemical plant and a water crisis in Beaumont reflected the complicated process of restoring normalcy to the battered region.
Authorities also ordered an evacuation for communities around the Barker reservoir near Houston amid fears of new flooding. Some of the hardest hit areas of Houston have been awash in water for several days, USA Today reported.
Authorities were concerned that some residents might still be awaiting rescue. So far, 37 people have been killed in Texas since the hurricane made landfall on August 25.
“We’ll be doing a block-by-block, door-by-door search of streets we believe have had three feet or more (of water) to make sure there are no people we’ve left behind,” said Richard Mann, the fire department’s executive assistant chief.
“This will be a one- to two-week-long process to make sure we address all those areas that have been hit hardest.”
In Crosby, 25 miles northeast of Houston, chemicals sparked fires and black smoke was reported at the Arkema Inc. chemical plant. The plant was flooded when more than 40 inches of rain fell in the area.
One Harris County sheriff’s deputy was taken to hospital after inhaling fumes and 14 others drove themselves to the hospital as precaution, the sheriff’s office said. The fumes were later determined to be a “non-toxic irritant”.
In Beaumont, 100 miles east of Houston, flooding damage knocked out the main and secondary sources providing water to the city of more than 100,000 people.
“At this time, there is no water supply for the city water system,” the city said in a statement. “We will have to wait until the water levels from this historical flood recede before we can determine the extent of damage and make any needed repairs.”
More than 33,000 people were in shelters on Thursday, the American Red Cross said. More than 13,000 people have been rescued from flooded homes.
Governor Greg Abbott said another 10,000 National Guard troops from across the nation would be joining the 14,000 already deployed in the region to provide security and aid in rescue efforts.
Across the state, families were searching tirelessly for missing relatives on the sixth day since the catastrophic storm made its first landfall last week as a Category 4 hurricane.
AccuWeather estimated Harvey’s cost at $160 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in US history. AccuWeather President Joel Myers called Harvey a “1,000-year storm” and said parts of Houston will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.