Rescuers began a block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes Thursday, pounding on doors and shouting as they looked for anyone — alive or dead — who might have been left behind in, which have now damaged more than 87,000 homes and destroyed nearly 7,000 statewide.
Elsewhere, the loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant set off explosions and a fire, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply. The remnants of the storm pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky.
More than 200 firefighters, police officers and members of an urban search-and-rescue team fanned out across the Meyerland neighborhood for survivors or bodies. They yelled “Fire department!” as they pounded with closed fists on doors, peered through windows and checked with neighbors. The streets were dry but heaped with soggy furniture, carpet and wood.
“We don’t think we’re going to find any humans, but we’re prepared if we do,” said District Chief James Pennington of the Houston Fire Department.
The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 29, including six family members — four of them children — whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.
“Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after the van that disappeared over the weekend was found in 10 feet of muddy water.
Unlike during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans, crews used GPS devices to log the homes they checked rather than painting neon X’s on the outside. That avoided alerting potential thieves to vacant homes.
The blasts at the Arkema Inc. plant northeast of Houston also ignited a 30- to 40-foot flame and sent up a plume of acrid black smoke that stung the eyes and lungs. The blaze burned out around midday, but emergency crews held back because of the danger that eight other trailers containing the same compound could blow, too. No serious injuries were reported.
The latest statewide damage surveys revealed the staggering extent of the destruction. The figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 50,000 homes sustained minor damage and 37,000 sustained major damage. At least 6,800 homes were destroyed.
About 325,000 people have already sought federal emergency aid in the wake of Harvey. More than $57 million in individual assistance has already been paid out, FEMA officials said.
Rescues continued apace, as did the search for shelter among people made homeless by the storm. Emergency officials reported 32,000 people in shelters across Texas.
SOURCE: CBS / AP