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Trump hails hurricane relief efforts as he visits Texas

Media captionDonald Trump: “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing”

US President Donald Trump has praised the relief response to Hurricane Harvey on his second visit to flood-stricken Texas.

“Things are working out well,” he said of the efforts, as he and wife Melania met victims and volunteers.

“As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing,” he added. “I think even for the country to watch and for the world to watch.”

The devastating hurricane made landfall in the state a week ago.

Some residents have been allowed to return to their homes but flood waters are still rising in other areas.

Harvey has been blamed for at least 47 deaths, and about 43,000 people are currently housed in shelters.

President Trump and the first lady visited Texas earlier in the week but stayed clear of the disaster zone, saying they did not want to divert resources from rescue work.

However, the president was criticised for not meeting victims of the flooding and for focusing largely on the logistics of the government response.

Visiting Texas again on Saturday, Mr and Mrs Trump made a point of meeting flood survivors and volunteers in Houston. They took part in food distribution at a shelter, handing out packed lunches, and posed for photographs with victims when they requested it.

During a tour of a shelter, the president said: “I think people appreciate what’s been done. It’s been done very efficiently, very well, and that’s what we want. We’ve very happy with the way things are going. A lot of love. There’s a lot of love.”

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted children at a centre for flood survivors in Houston

Amid the destruction, stories have been shared of people opening their homes and businesses to others, and forming human chains to save people from treacherous rising waters.

However, many are also now returning to destroyed homes without the insurance to fix them.

Experts estimate that only about 20% of those in Houston’s worst hit areas have flood insurance.

Media captionFlood victims have been returning to inspect the damage

Mr Trump has asked Congress for $7.8bn (£6bn) as an initial payment to help with recovery efforts following the flooding in both Texas and Louisiana, which has also hit production at America’s main petrol and oil refining centre.

The White House said on Saturday that the president had authorised an increase in the level of federal funding available for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Governor of Texas Greg Abbott has said the state may need more than $125bn in aid.

The president has declared Sunday a “National Day of Prayer” for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Later on Saturday, he is expected to travel to Lake Charles, Louisiana, which also suffered flash floods.

Emergency funds request

Image copyright
AFP

Administration officials say there will be further requests for funds when the full impact of Hurricane Harvey becomes known.

In a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney warned that failure to raise the US debt ceiling could hinder recovery efforts.

The debt ceiling is a cap on the total amount the US government can borrow. Only Congress can raise that limit.

Mr Mulvaney said almost half a million households had registered for support for rental assistance and for essential home repairs.

He called on Congress to act “expeditiously to ensure that the debt ceiling does not affect these critical response and recovery efforts”. A vote on the emergency request is expected next week.

Harvey dumped an estimated 20 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston area.

‘Massive’ clean-up

Governor Abbott has warned that the recovery programme will be a “multi-year project”.

“This is going to be a massive, massive clean-up process,” he told ABC News.

Mr Abbott warned that in some parts of Texas, rivers were still rising and flooding “poses an ongoing threat”.

Media captionMan plays piano in flooded Texas home – footage courtesy of Greg Aylor

Search-and-rescue teams have continued work in Beaumont, a city of about 120,000 people near the Louisiana border, where flooding has cut off the drinking water supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that floodwater can contain bacteria and other contaminants from overflowing sewers. It said the biggest threat to public health was access to safe drinking water.

Thousands of homes and businesses remain without power, and many schools are expected to remain closed on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros, the city’s Major League Baseball team, returned home for games against the New York Mets on Saturday.

The team abandoned their home stadium this week, playing three games in Florida against the Texas Rangers.

“We hope that these games can serve as a welcome distraction for our city that is going through a very difficult time,” Astros president Reid Ryan said.

“We hope that we can put smiles on some faces.”

Interactive

See how Buffalo Bayou and Allen Parkway underpass flooded

After

Aerial images show how central Houston underpasses remain flooded, 30 August

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Satellite images shows central Houston

Trump hails hurricane relief efforts as he visits Texas

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