Texas officials blame Harvey for at least 60 deaths

Officials now blame at least 60 deaths on Harvey, the stalled storm that dumped a record-breaking amount of rain on southeast Texas.

County where storm hit hardest saw highest toll with 30 people confirmed dead

Mariko Shimmi, right, helps carry items out of the home of Ken Tani in a neighbourhood still flooded from Harvey on Monday in Houston. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Officials now blame at least 60 deaths on Harvey, the storm that dumped about 130 centimetres of rain (4.2 feet) on southeast Texas in a matter of days.

Many of those deaths confirmed in 11 Texas counties happened when people were caught in quickly rising floodwaters or lost control on water-logged roads, emergency management officials said. Six family members including four children were killed when a van they were riding in was swept into a bayou as floodwaters rose in Harris County.

Of the counties confirming fatalities, Harris County, which is home to Houston and saw the worst flooding during the storm, still has the highest death toll with 30 confirmed Harvey-related deaths as of about 5 p.m. Monday.

But county emergency management departments told The Associated Press they are including people in their storm-related death totals who died from indirect complications of Harvey.

Toxic sites hit by Harvey threaten Texans

4 years ago
The flooding caused by Harvey has impacted sites in Texas where the Environmental Protection Agency has previously cleaned up hazardous chemicals, adding another potential danger to the thousands of returning Texans 2:11

The huge dump of water loosened the ground around trees that have fallen into at least two homes in Montgomery County, causing two deaths, said county emergency management spokeswoman Cynthia Jamieson. And the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that a couple had died while driving outside of Jasper, Texas, when a tree landed on their vehicle.

Power outages from the storm have also accounted for some of the indirect deaths. Several elderly people in a handful of counties were reported as Harvey-related deaths when medical equipment such as oxygen tanks lost power.

Officials said floodwaters have caused delays in responses to medical emergencies that resulted in deaths as well, including the first death reported in the storm — a man who died in a fire in Aransas County. Another person died of a heart attack Sunday in Montgomery County, as rescue workers were delayed in getting to his address by road and flood conditions left by Harvey's massive rainfall.

Gaston Kirby walks through floodwater inside his home in the aftermath of Harvey on Monday in Houston. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Harvey slammed into Texas on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, but brought the worst flooding to Houston and other areas as a tropical storm. The rain totalled nearly 1.3 metres in some spots.

Some Houston officials stressed that the recovery from Harvey was beginning, and Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed America's fourth-largest city "open for business." But with areas under water, people not yet in their homes, and billions in damage to repair, major disasters that Harvey created are by no means resolved.

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Congress for a $7.9 billion US down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suggested the cost of recovery could be as much as $180 billion.

560,000 familes seek housing assistance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Monday it has about 560,000 families registered for its housing assistance program.

That comes from John Long, deputy federal co-ordinating officer of the agency.

FEMA spokesperson Tiana Suber said if those people's homes are found to be uninhabitable or inaccessible for an extended time, they may qualify for the agency's Transitional Shelter Assistance.

Some will qualify for short-term hotel lodging at FEMA expense, while others will be referred to local agencies or voluntary organizations for possible assistance.

Long said the main focus is to move people from the large shelters, where stress levels can run high. He said FEMA is tracking the families being moved from the large shelters as best as it can, but people will move in and out of those shelters.

He said FEMA's mission is changing from life-saving to life sustaining.