President Donald Trump visited Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the first major natural disaster to test his leadership in a crisis, as record rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey lashed Houston and tens of thousands of people fled flooded homes, Reuters reports.
The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to the state, killing at least 11 people and paralyzing Houston, the fourth most-populous American city. Damage was expected to run well into the tens of billions of dollars, making it one of the costliest U.S. natural disasters.
City officials were preparing to shelter some 19,000 people, with thousands more expected to flee the area as the flooding entered its fourth day.
Nearly a third of Harris County was under water, an area 15 times the size of Manhattan, the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported. Forecasters warned the rain would continue through Thursday, badly straining the dams and drainage systems that protect the low-lying U.S. energy hub.
Harris County officials warned residents to evacuate as they released water from overflowing reservoirs to alleviate pressure on two dams, a move that would add to flooding along the Buffalo Bayou waterway that runs through the area.
Trump, speaking in Corpus Christi near where Harvey first came ashore last week as the most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years, said he wanted the relief effort to stand as an example of how to respond to a storm.
“We want to do it better than ever before,” he said.
Trump later spoke to a crowd of people affected by the storm.
“This storm, it’s epic what happened. But you know what, it happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything,” Trump said, before waving a Texas state flag over the crowd, standing on a stepladder near a fire truck.
Harvey has drawn comparisons with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans 12 years ago, killing 1,800 people. Former President George W. Bush was widely criticized for his administration’s handling of the response to that disaster, taking a heavy toll on public support of his administration.
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