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After Harvey, misery piles on for Texas plant evacuees
by Staff Writers
Crosby, United States (AFP) Aug 31, 2017

W.House calls for emergency funds as Harvey hits 100,000 homes
Washington (AFP) Aug 31, 2017 - The White House said Thursday it would ask Congress for emergency funding to help pay for recovery in Texas and Louisiana from mega-storm Harvey, as a top official said the number of homes affected had hit 100,000.

"We're going to have damage to publicly owned infrastructure," said Donald Trump's homeland security advisor Tom Bossert.

The administration will "put together a responsible supplemental request for Congress," he added.

Bossert did not say how much money would be requested, but it could run in the billions of dollars, putting pressure on already strained finances.

The announcement came as the vast scale of the damage from Harvey began to come into focus.

"These are estimates at this point, but it looks like round about 100,000 affected homes," he said.

"That's a big number. We're going to have 100,000 affected homes, all with different degrees of insurance -- some with flood insurance, some underinsured, some uninsured."

The White House also announced that President Trump would personally donate one million dollars to the recovery effort.

Trump to donate $1 million to flood relief: W.House
Washington Aug 31, 2017 - US President Donald Trump will donate $1 million to flood relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana after the devastation unleashed by Hurricane Harvey, the White House said Thursday. "He'll pledge, proudly, $1 million of his own personal money to help the people of Texas and Louisiana," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. The White House did not say whether the money would come from Trump or his foundation. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump came under fire for repeatedly announcing charitable donations but not following through. Sanders said Trump wanted suggestions from the White House press corps about how to spend the money. Sanders also announced that Trump has tentative plans to visit "the Houston area" on Saturday as well as Lake Charles, Louisiana. During a visit to Texas on Tuesday Trump had been unable to visit the flood zone because of difficult logistics and security concerns. Miley Cyrus latest celebrity to donate to Harvey relief
New York (AFP) Aug 31, 2017 - Pop star Miley Cyrus on Thursday tearfully announced she was giving $500,000 to victims of Harvey, becoming the latest celebrity to donate after the mega-storm ravaged Texas.

The singer and actress, appearing on Ellen DeGeneres's television show, broke down in tears as she discussed seeing the devastation from the storm.

Explaining how she takes comfort in going home to her grandmother, mother and seven dogs, Cyrus said: "If I didn't have that anymore, it would just be really hard."

"I hope people understand and can put themselves in those people's shoes and just know what it feels like to have everything taken away from you," she said.

Cyrus's donation is among the most generous announced by the celebrity world.

Actress Sandra Bullock, who maintains homes in Texas and Louisiana, earlier pledged $1 million, while the Kardashian reality television family offered $500,000.

The experimental R&B singer Solange, who grew up in Houston, announced a benefit concert for September 28 at Boston's historic Orpheum Theatre.

Solange, who will be joined by the "arkestra" ensemble of late avant-garde jazz artist Sun Ra, said that all proceeds from the performance would go to Harvey relief.

Solange's better-known sister, pop superstar Beyonce, has promised a major charitable effort but has not yet announced the details.

First their neighborhood was deluged by Harvey's torrential rains. Then, officers turned up at the door with more bad news: there is a risk of a chemical blast at a nearby plant and it's time to evacuate.

Two days on, some among the area's poorer residents are still living in an emergency shelter set up in the center of Crosby, around five miles (eight kilometers) from the Arkema plant where a chemical fire broke out early Thursday.

More fires are expected to follow, and while officials say the plume of smoke spewing from the site northeast of Houston does not appear dangerous for now, they have warned people to exercise extreme caution.

"They just came up and beat on my door," recounted Gary Lobell, a 57-year-old veteran who lives in a camper van a mile from the plant, inside the evacuation zone.

"They didn't let me bring my cats. I didn't have time to get anything, just the clothes on my back."

Wiry and bearded, Lobell was among several dozen residents taken under the wing of the First Baptist church in Crosby, and housed in a shelter that was first opened for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Lobell left his four cats inside an old school bus near his van, with food to last three days. That was almost three days ago.

"I feel stressed, worrying about everything," he said. "I'm worried about my animals and my belongings, all my military records are in my trailer," he told AFP outside the red-brick building that normally serves as a community center.

"Most of the people we have are ready to go home, because 90 percent of them, their homes are still there," explained Josh Seale, a member of the church.

"But they can't get into their homes because the roads are blocked."

- 'It's not safe' -

Cordoned off by firefighters and police, the area around the flooded plant is a mix of comfortable residential neighborhoods, much humbler dwellings, and open fields. It is a sparsely populated area, slightly out of the way.

Everyone around here knows the Arkema plant, and Josh Seale -- for one -- harbors no hard feelings towards its owners.

"It's a one in 500 years event, I don't blame the plant for not knowing that."

In the main streets of Crosby, and the nearby shopping district, life was crawling back to normal six days after Harvey smashed into the Texas coast as a Category Four hurricane, turning roads into rivers across Houston and surrounding areas.

But for people living near the plant the crisis was far from over.

Lane Averett, 59, and his wife Loyce had to leave their three cats, dog and a calf behind -- with food only for a day two -- when they were told to evacuate their trailer.

They expected to be home soon, but now the authorities are speaking of keeping them out for up to seven days.

"That calf will be dead by then. A cow can't go after 72 hours without water," fretted the Crosby resident of 25 years, in camouflage shirt and slacks, as his wife shook her head in silence.

Bank employee Marta Higdon found refuge at the church shelter with her three children, and her elderly parents. They escaped from the floodwaters earlier this week with no more than the clothes on their back

"We left everything. These clothes are from the shelter," she said. "I don't have my vehicle, I don't have nothing except my purse."

"We're feeling so sad, especially the kids."

But the time she and her family got out, the water on the road was already above her knees.

"Some people wanted to stay but they're here now, because I think they're scared."

Higdon doesn't know what state she will find her house in -- and may not find out for a while -- but after the overnight blast she views the prospect of going home with dread.

"We're waiting for the release, for when we can get back home," she said. "But at the same time we're scared."

"We don't feel like living there no more. What happens in the future, if this happens again and we're sleeping? It's not safe at all, for me it's not safe."

Toll in Texas mounts as Harvey menaces further east
Houston (AFP) Aug 31, 2017
Storm-battered Houston began limping towards recovery Thursday as Harvey's floodwaters started receding there, though the historic storm was still wreaking havoc further east. While clouds parted at last in America's fourth-largest city, rural areas of Texas were drenched as Harvey headed eastwards, with the city of Port Arthur especially hard hit. Authorities in Louisiana scrambled to s ... read more

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