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Flood threat rises as Harvey dumps torrential rains on Texas


REUTERS

Flood threat rises as Harvey dumps torrential rains on Texas

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ROCKPORT, Texas – The most powerful hurricane to hit the US state of Texas in more than 50 years moved slowly inland on Saturday, dumping torrential rain expected to cause catastrophic flooding after battering the coast with 130 miles per hour (209 km per hour) winds.

Texas utility companies said just under a quarter of a million customers were without power. Wind and rain continued to lash the coast as residents began to assess the damage.

Harvey is the strongest storm to hit Texas, the centre of the US oil and gas industry, since 1961.

The seaside town of Rockport, 30 miles (48 km) north of the city of Corpus Christi, was hit hard.

Several homes had collapsed, and many more buildings suffered damage. Roofs had been ripped off some, and windows blown in.

The streets were flooded and strewn with power lines and debris. At a recreational vehicle sales lot, a dozen vehicles were flipped over and one had been blown into the middle of the street outside.

“It was terrible,” resident Joel Valdez, 57, told Reuters. The storm ripped part of the roof from his trailer home at around 4 a.m., he said. “I could feel the whole house move.”

Valdez said he stayed through the storm to look after his animals.

“I have these miniature donkeys and I don’t know where they are,” he said, as he sat in a Jeep with windows smashed by the storm. 

Resident Frank Cook, 56, also stayed through the storm.

“If you have something left of your house, you’re lucky,” he said, surveying the damage from his vehicle.

Before the storm hit, Rockport’s mayor told anyone staying behind to write their names on their arms for identification purposes in case of death or injury.

A high school, hotel, senior housing complex and other buildings suffered structural damage, according to emergency officials and local media. Some were being used as shelters.

The coastal city of Port Lavaca, farther north on the coast, had no power and some streets were flooded.

“There is so much tree damage and debris that the cost of clean-up will be enormous,” Mayor Jack Whitlow told Reuters, after touring the city earlier Saturday.

The hurricane came ashore near Port Lavaca late on Friday with maximum winds of 130 mph (209 km/h). That made it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the second-highest category and the most powerful storm in over a decade to hit the mainland United States.

The streets of Corpus Christi, which has around 320 000 residents, were deserted early on Saturday, with billboards twisted and strong winds still blowing. 

City authorities asked residents to reduce use of toilets and faucets because power outages left wastewater plants unable to treat sewage.

The city also asked residents to boil water before consumption.

A drill ship broke free of its mooring overnight and rammed into some tugs in the port of Corpus Christi, port executive Sean Strawbridge said. The crews on the tugs were safe, he added.

The city was under voluntary evacuation ahead of the storm. (Reuters)

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