Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said “the worst is not yet over” for the south-east of the US state, after devastating Tropical Storm Harvey.
Rain continues to fall, he said, and flooding in certain areas may last another week.
More than 20 people are reported dead and large parts of Houston, Port Arthur and Beaumont are under water. Another 17 deaths are being investigated in connection to the storm.
The storm has now moved to neighboring Louisiana, where flash-flood warnings have been issued.
Texas has carried out more than 8,500 rescues and more than 32,000 people remain in shelters throughout the state, Governor Abbott said.
Another 10,000 members of the National Guard are said to be on their way, joining the 14,000 already deployed to tackle the disaster.
Damage has been estimated at tens of billions of dollars (current estimates are about 42 billion, but it could be rising), making it one of the costliest U.S. natural disasters.
There is some relief in sight for Houston, the fourth most populous U.S. city, with forecasters saying five days of torrential rain may come to an end as the storm picks up speed and leaves the Gulf of Mexico region later in the day.
Industrial chemical manufacturer Arkema said Wednesday it has “no way to prevent” a potentially large explosion and fire at its facility near Houston, after flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey.
The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, some 25 miles northeast of Houston, was evacuated late Tuesday. Working with authorities, the company also urged everyone within a mile and a half of the plant to evacuate and shut down a stretch of Highway 90 that runs alongside the plant, which produces organic peroxides for things like acrylic-based paint.
“We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water throughout the plant,” Arkema’s North American operations Chief Executive Rich Rowe said in a teleconference Wednesday with reporters.
Rowe said about 300 people in all have been evacuated, but said it wasn’t a mandatory evacuation, so he’s not certain whether the 1.5-mile radius around the facility is currently devoid of people. He added it is mostly a rural area, so there are “a limited number of homes” within the area.
He said assuming there is an explosion or large fire, the company feels any sustained environmental impact should be “minimal,” noting the possible incident would probably be largely confined to the Arkema site itself.
(BBC, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)