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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Houston faithful offer hope, help for Harvey amid aid appeal
By Michael Mathes
Houston (AFP) Sept 4, 2017


Texas governor appeals for aid for Harvey recovery
Houston (AFP) Sept 3, 2017 - The governor of Texas said Sunday that the "long haul" of recovery from Hurricane Harvey was just beginning, appealing to Congress to provide tens of billions of dollars needed for reconstruction.

In the nation's fourth-largest city of Houston, which was devastated by record-setting rainfall, many residents whose homes had flooded returned over the weekend to begin removing soggy drywall, soaked carpets and ruined possessions.

A week of flooding damaged 40,000 to 50,000 homes in Houston and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to emergency shelters.

"The rebuilding process, this is where the long haul begins," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is where we come to the part where Congress plays a role."

The White House has asked Congress for $7.85 billion for Harvey-related "response and initial recovery efforts," calling it a "down payment" on the long-term cost of recovering from the record flooding.

In the end, Abbott said, recovery will cost "well over $120 billion, probably $150 billion to $180 billion."

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has said the administration will later seek an additional $6.7 billion for disaster relief.

The storm was blamed for at least 42 deaths, with The Houston Chronicle saying the toll of people who died or were feared dead was more than 50.

Yet Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged people who had been planning on travelling to Houston not to cancel their trips, saying the city was now 95 percent dry.

"I want to be very clear. Yes, it was a very serious storm, historic, unprecedented, but the city of Houston is open for business."

"And so if you have a conference, convention, concert, any of those things that were planning to come to this city, we are still ready to welcome you," Turner said, adding that city employees would be back at work on Tuesday, following the US Labor Day holiday on Monday.

- 'Can-do city' -

Houston is a regional hub and also a center of the US petroleum industry, with the surrounding Gulf Coast area home to about a third of the United States' refining capacity.

"That is a can-do city, we're not going to engage in a pity party," Turner said. He appeared Sunday on both CBS and NBC.

While Houston was getting back to a semblance of normality, floodwaters in other hard-hit cities nearby such as Rockport, Beaumont and Port Arthur were slower to recede.

Meanwhile, many Americans marked a "National Day of Prayer" on Sunday for victims of the storm.

In Washington, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania attended morning services at St. John's Church, a short distance from the White House.

In Houston, an overflow crowd packed the 900-seat sanctuary of the historically black Fifth Ward Church of Christ, with many worshippers dressed in their Sunday best while others came in T-shirts.

Barney Smith, 66, was among the estimated 70 or more church members who were impacted by Harvey.

"I had to take everything out. Everything," he told AFP, saying his home had been swamped by three feet (one meter) of water.

As he spoke, people were picking out supplies in a large hall where a relief station was stocked with stacks of donated clothes, food and other necessities.

Britt Lively, a businessman and member of the Franklin Church of Christ, drove two hours to the Fifth Ward church with a livestock trailer full of donations. Members also set up a BBQ pit in the parking lot and were cooking 5,000 hot dogs.

"It don't matter if you're black, white, Latino, we're here to help," said the 37-year-old, who along with the rest of his church group is white.

"One day, we'll need them."

Houston's faithful embraced the comfort of church Sunday with their hearts heavy after mega-storm Harvey's destruction, as the Texas governor led appeals for billions of dollars in aid for his battered state.

Some worshippers sought succor, and others offered compassion and aid, for their devastated communities in displays of solidarity and partnership that highlighted the best of the human spirit in trying times.

The nation's fourth-largest city of Houston was drying out after a week of flooding, but the immediate needs of many victims here remained acute.

"We know that some are distressed, some are displaced. But I believe through it all we can say God is good," preached Minister Gary Smith at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ.

More than 1,000 worshippers, including some whose homes were badly damaged by floodwater, packed the historically black church's sanctuary for a service that repeatedly addressed the tragedy that swamped so many Texas and Louisiana communities.

In Houston, which was devastated by record-setting rainfall, many residents whose homes had flooded returned over the weekend to begin removing soggy drywall, soaked carpets and ruined possessions.

The flooding damaged 40,000 to 50,000 homes in Houston and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to emergency shelters.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that a years-long recovery lay ahead, and appealed to Congress to step up and approve huge funding for reconstruction.

"The rebuilding process, this is where the long haul begins," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is where we come to the part where Congress plays a role."

The White House has asked Congress for $7.85 billion for Harvey-related "response and initial recovery efforts," calling it a "down payment" on the long-term cost of recovering from the record flooding.

In the end, Abbott said, recovery will cost "well over $120 billion, probably $150 billion to $180 billion."

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has said the administration will later seek an additional $6.7 billion for relief from the storm that has been blamed for at least 42 deaths.

Congress returns to Washington Tuesday after a summer recess. Democrats and Republicans who have feuded for months over President Donald Trump's agenda are under pressure to approve disaster relief.

"It's not that it matters how much everything costs," said Diane Chapman, who was flooded out of her Houston home and was loading up on relief supplies.

"What matters is that you help people who need help."

- 'Can-do city' -

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged people who had been planning on traveling to Houston not to cancel their trips, conventions or concerts, saying the city was now 95 percent dry.

"Yes, it was a very serious storm, historic, unprecedented, but the city of Houston is open for business."

Houston is a regional hub and also a center of the US petroleum industry, with the surrounding Gulf Coast area home to about a third of the nation's refining capacity.

"That is a can-do city, we're not going to engage in a pity party," Turner said. He appeared Sunday on CBS and NBC.

- Eerily empty -

Floodwaters in other hard-hit cities nearby such as Rockport, Beaumont and Port Arthur were slower to recede than Houston's.

But while Houston was inching back to relative normality, some neighborhoods remained flooded, including those below the Addicks reservoir, where officials released water to ease structural pressure.

Streets in Briarforest, which was eerily empty and quiet Sunday, remained under about three feet (one meter) or more of water.

Police set up roadblocks and were patrolling the area, in part to prevent looting. A Texas state trooper said there have been cases of thieves riding boats through streets of wealthy neighborhoods near the reservoir and breaking in to homes.

Meanwhile, many Americans marked a "National Day of Prayer" for the storm's victims.

In Washington, Trump and his wife Melania attended morning services at St. John's Church near the White House.

In Houston, Barney Smith, 66, was among the more than 70 Fifth Ward church members impacted by Harvey.

"I had to take everything out. Everything," he told AFP, saying the water ruined his home.

As he spoke, people like Luella Rivera picked out supplies in the church's gymnasium, where a relief station was stocked with donations.

"I came for clothes, water and food," said Rivera, 53. Her house flooded with knee-deep water, but she refused to evacuate.

"This is my first time in need of help," she said.

Businessman Britt Lively said he and fellow members of the Franklin Church of Christ watched the horror unfold from afar and felt compelled to help.

They drove two hours to the Fifth Ward church bringing donations, and set up a BBQ pit in the parking lot to cook 5,000 hot dogs for the community.

"It don't matter if you're black, white, Latino, we're here to help" Houston, he said.

"One day, we'll need them."

acb-mlm/jm

CBS CORPORATION

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Ai Weiwei showcases refugee epic in Venice
Venice (AFP) Sept 1, 2017
An impatient toddler chides his mother for not being quick enough in getting him into his pair of newly-acquired boots. Finally they're on and he wriggles free to put the new footwear to good use: kicking his siblings and friends on the shins. He might be a refugee, detained in a transit camp with the rest of his family, waiting to hear what the rest of his life might hold in store for ... read more

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