President Donald Trump headed to Texas to confront the first major natural disaster, and biggest test yet, of his presidency as officials struggled to manage an unprecedented deluge delivered by Hurricane Harvey.
The mammoth storm dropped more than 15 trillion gallons of rain bringing catastrophic consequences to Houston, America’s fourth biggest city where 6.8 million people live. More than 3,500 people were rescued by police, firefighters and National Guard troops as boat and helicopter searches continued.
Appearing at an emergency briefing at a fire station in nearby Corpus Christi, Mr Trump, wearing a “USA” baseball hat, said: “This was of epic proportion, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. This is a special place, a special state.”
Addressing first responders he added: “We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now, as this is the way to do it. I won’t say congratulations. We don’t want to do that, we’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.”
Mr Trumplater climbed up on a fire engine ladder to address a crowd and held aloft a Texan flag.
He said: “We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you. It’s going well.
“It’s historic, it’s epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas and Texas can handle anything.”
Greg Abbott, the Republican Governor of Texas, said Mr Trump was “a champion of Texas and a champion of helping us rebuild”.
Damages were already estimated in the billions of dollars and rebuilding is expected to last beyond Mr Trump’s current four-year term.
Around 17,000 people were in shelters, including 9,000 in a Houston convention centre intended to hold half as many.
Hundreds of roads were blocked by high water, Houston’s two main airports were shut, and 6,000 prison inmates were evacuated.
The official death toll of nine was expected to rise. With 50 inches of rain in some places, and more expected, Houston police chief
Art Acevedo said: “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”
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