President Trump visits Texas, thousands still stranded by rising waters

TEXAS — The president and first lady arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas, around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday to view the damage after the hurricane.

“To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100% with you,” Trump said on Monday. He said that he believes Congress will act quickly to provide disaster relief funding to areas affected by Harvey.

Harvey rammed into Texas last week, unleashing a torrent of rainfall, clogging streets into rivers, and leaving residents stranded in their flood-stricken homes — but the storm’s havoc is still not over.

Harvey could dump up 15 inches of rain for portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana, including the Houston area. This would deal another blow by drenching already saturated areas and hampering already difficult rescue efforts.

Tropical Storm Harvey is starting to move east and heavy rainfall is expected to worsen the “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding situation in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service.

In Texas, thousands have been rescued so far, but many more are still waiting for help — some sitting in darkness amid rising floodwaters. Four people have died as a result of the catastrophic storm.

“The Coast Guard is continuing to receive upwards of 1,000 calls per hour,” US Coast Guard Lt. Mike Hart said on Monday. The Coast Guard rescued over 3,000 people on Monday, he said.

People have turned to the walkie-talkie app Zello reporting their dire situations: An elderly couple are trapped on a roof. A family says they have three kids; one of the children has autism and another one is having a seizure.

Search and rescue efforts unfolded in an inundated overpass in northeast Houston as residents walked through murky floodwater amid the rain. Many tried to help each other and some guided seniors through the submerged street.

There is no indication the water will stop rising anytime soon. Swollen rivers in east Texas aren’t expected to crest until later this week, and federal officials are already predicting the deadly tropical storm will drive 30,000 people into shelters and spur 450,000 victims to seek some sort of disaster assistance.

Latest developments

— Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center has run out of bed space. Not everyone was able to be given a cot on Monday and were given extra pillows and blankets as they slept on the floor, Red Cross Spokesperson Betsy Robertson said. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said they are looking for an additional shelter location.

— City of Houston will not ask for immigration status or papers from anyone at any shelter, according to tweets in both English and Spanish from the city’s verified account.

— Dallas is preparing to open a mega-shelter at its downtown convention center as the city has been asked to get ready for what could be tens of thousands of evacuees from Harvey. Authorities are aiming to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center by Tuesday morning.

— Houston reported so far minimal looting incidents. Mayor Turner issued a stern warning: “No looting allowed. Don’t take advantage, don’t prey on people who are distressed and have to leave their homes because they have no choice.”

The Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon also warned that his office would “seek prison or jail time in each and every forthcoming case where the defendant stands charged with theft (looting), burglary, robbery, or any similar crime committed during Hurricane Harvey.”

‘None of us (is) giving up’

Houston agencies have received thousands of calls for help.

Since midnight Sunday, more than 2,300 calls have poured in to the Houston Fire Department, including 400 calls for rescue Monday afternoon, Houston officials said on Monday.

Houston police had rescued 1,000 people since Monday morning, bringing the total number rescued to more than 3,000 since the storm flooded the city, Turner told reporters Monday night.

State, local and military rescue units have plucked thousands of stranded residents from the water and deluged homes.

“None of us (is) going to give up,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

The Pentagon is identifying resources, including trucks, aircraft and troops, that can be dispatched for hurricane relief if the request comes, defense officials said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard, roughly 12,000 Guardsmen, he said Monday.

In Harris County, authorities asked stranded people to hang sheets or towels from their residences, so rescuers could spot them more easily.

The scope of how many people are trapped in flooded homes remains unclear.

Rep. Al Green told CNN that he believes 10,000 people are still trapped in flooded homes in just one section of Houston he toured Monday. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she believes the total number of trapped across Houston could be “tens of thousands.”

Volunteers come to help

Citizens with boats assisted authorities in search and rescue efforts. At a Monday news conference, FEMA Administrator Brock Long encouraged more citizens to come forward, saying the recovery efforts would require community involvement. He said the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website would direct folks to religious and nongovernmental agencies through which residents can help victims, who, so far, span 30 to 50 counties.

But as water levels have risen, so has the desperation.

People started to panic, rushing rescue boats and even shooting at them if they didn’t stop, said one volunteer rescuer.

Clyde Cain, of the Cajun Navy, a Louisiana-based rescue force that gained fame during Hurricane Katrina, said in one instance, a boat broke down, and while the crew sought shelter in a delivery truck, people tried to steal the inoperable boat.

“They’re making it difficult for us to rescue them,” he said. “You have people rushing the boat. Everyone wants to get in at the same time. They’re panicking. Water is rising.”

Community members like Jim McIngvale, who owns furniture stores in Houston and Richmond, are pitching in. He opened his doors to evacuees on Sunday and provided 600 people a place to sleep.

“We have tons of mattresses in our warehouse and we can provide them with a blanket,” he told CNN. “We have a restaurant inside the stores, and we are feeding them for free.”