More Rescues, Some Residents Return After Harvey Devastation
Paul England, Jr. helps Michael Brown, not pictured, search for belongings inside his flooded home, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, in Port Arthur, Texas, on Sept. 2, 2017.Gerald Herbert / AP
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By Phil Helsel, Shaquille Brewster and Associated Press
In the Texas city of Beaumont, where Harvey flooded the main pumping station and wells, officials handed out water and tried to help residents to get back on their feet Saturday.
Beaumont, a city of about 118,000 east of storm-battered Houston, lost water service in the wake of the deadly storm. Officials worked to repair their water treatment plant, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps failed.
The Army Corps of Engineers sent pumps, and an ExxonMobil team built and installed a temporary intake pipe in an effort to refill a city reservoir. Exxon has a refinery and chemical plants in Beaumont.
In Port Arthur, south of Beaumont, the Coast Guard said Saturday that it rescued more than 490 people and 155 pets in the area in the past 24 hours. A Coast Guard official said there were 50 rescues in the Port Arthur and Beaumont areas Saturday morning and more were ongoing.
Some residents of Port Arthur, a city of around 53,000, who had been forced to flee returned by Saturday.
Robert Johnson said he had one of his children on his back and another in a plastic container as he navigated through water that in parts was above waist-deep. After neighbors up the street opened their doors, he went back and inflated an air mattress to help others.
"I've seen a lot worse," Johnson, a former Marine who moved to Port Arthur from New Orleans in 2009, said as he surveyed damage to his home, which he said was not as bad as it could have been.
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"I just figured that we was blessed that we came back and everything was almost all right, except for my car ... but other than that, God will make it what it is, that’s how I see it," he said.
At least 43 deaths are blamed on the storm. Federal officials said it is estimated that more than 100,000 homes were affected, and more than 436,000 households have registered for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Trump administration has requested nearly $8 billion from Congress for initial response and recovery operations in Harvey’s aftermath. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said it was a "down payment" and future requests would address long-term rebuilding efforts.
"We have to push that stuff through," Trump told Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas of the appropriations request sent to Texas. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have pledged quick action on the funding request.
The recovery from the storm is expected to take years. "They say two years, three years — I think that, you know, because this is Texas you’ll probably do it in six months, I have a feeling," Trump said during his visit Saturday.
Baseball returned to Houston on Saturday, with the Astros beating the New York Mets 12-8 in the first game of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park. It was the first pro sporting event since Harvey struck.
"After the week that we've gone through people ... need a sign that tomorrow will be better than today," Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said. "No better way to do that than for the Astros to play ball. This is a city that regardless of our challenges we play ball."
The stadium is near the George R. Brown Convention Center, which is being used as a shelter and at one point housed more than 9,000 people.
The director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department said Saturday that approximately 1,500 people were being housed there. Houston’s NRG Center said it had a little more than 1,700 people there Saturday. Nearly 4,200 people sought shelter there since it was opened after the storm.
Parts of west Houston remained flooded, in areas near a filled reservoir where officials have been releasing water into the Buffalo Bayou watershed.
On Saturday Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that nearly 300 people had refused to leave after a voluntary evacuation order was issued, and he issued a mandatory evacuation order.
The mandatory evacuation order applies to 4,600 dwellings already flooded, Sylvester said. Fire Chief Samuel Peña said that people remaining in inundated areas are in danger.
"Put your own personal safety above your property," Sylvester said in a statement. He urged people to "think of the safety of first responders" and to leave.
CORRECTION (Sept. 5, 2017, 3:32 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Paul Ryan. He is House Speaker, not House Majority Leader.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
Shaquille Brewster is a political reporter for NBC News and MSNBC.