18 dead and over 13,000 rescued as floodwaters rise in Texas
Storm Harvey has claimed 18 lives, and left over 13,000 in need of rescue, as the floodwaters rise in and around Houston.
An on-duty police officer was among those killed.
Flooding caused by Storm Harvey has devastated the city, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.
The heaviest tropical downpour in US history has left an area 15 times the size of Manhattan under water, according to the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
On Tuesday, residents within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of a chemical plant in Crosby were ordered to evacuate due to the rising risk of an explosion and subsequent leak.
A curfew was also introduced by Houston’s mayor, amid reports of looting, armed robberies and people impersonating police officers.
More than 3,500 people have been rescued by the National Guard following the storm. Up to 30,000 soldiers have been placed on standby to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.
Some 17,000 people are seeking refuge in shelters across Texas, according to the American Red Cross. Two or three more “mega shelters” will be opened to accommodate those affected, authorities said.
On Wednesday, Singapore’s defence ministry sent four military helicopters to assist with the relief effort, airlifting troops, evacuees and supplies.
With the flooding now entering its fourth day, floods are forecast to worsen over the next 48 hours.
Flood level are set to peak on Wednesday and Thursday, with 51 cm (20in) of rain forecast to fall by the end of the week and up to 127cm (50 in) predicted in some isolated storms.
A breached levee south of Houston and two overflowing reservoir dams outside the city are also adding to the rising water levels.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk to board Marine One before departing the White House for Joint Base Andrews, en route to Corpus Christi, Texas | Image: Yin Bogu/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
Storm of ‘epic proportion’
The National Hurricane Centre warned of “ongoing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” continuing across south eastern Texas.
While The National Weather Service warned of dangerous flash flooding pushing northeast over the coming days.
With many reported missing, the number of dead is expected to rise once floodwaters start to recede.
US President Donald Trump paid a visit to Corpus Christi where the storm hit to survey the storm damage, but will not travel to Houston.
He told rescue organisers: “This was of epic proportion, nobody has ever seen anything like this.”
Rescue services say that make-shift shelters are beginning to run out of space, as two and possibly three ‘mega-shelters’ are being planned to accommodate evacuees in Houston.
Damage is expected to run into tens of billions of dollars, making it one of America’s most expensive natural disasters.
Southwestern Louisiana is also preparing for potentially disastrous flooding, with hundreds of people already evacuated from chest-deep water after a heavy band of rain inundated Lake Charles on Monday night.
Forecasters say the storm will linger over the Gulf of Mexico, before heading back inland east of Houston on Wednesday – putting New Orleans potentially in its path.