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Houston battles massive floods as Harvey dumps rain on Texas


Massive flooding unleashed by deadly monster storm Harvey left Houston — the fourth-largest city in the United States — increasingly isolated Sunday as its airports and major highways shut down, and residents scampered onto rooftops to escape raging waters.

The city’s two main airports suspended all commercial flights and a major hospital was forced to evacuate patients after flooding in its basement disrupted power. A local television station also was knocked off the air.

Rising waters from Harvey — which crashed into the Texas Gulf Coast late Friday as a huge Category 4 hurricane — inundated roads throughout the area, affecting every major freeway in Houston and hamstringing efforts to move people to safety. At least three people have been killed so far.

“It’s crazy to see the roads you’re driving on every day just completely under water,” Houston resident John Travis told AFP.

Another city resident, Brit Dreger, said: “It doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere for a while.”

Overwhelmed emergency services warned residents to head for high ground or climb onto rooftops — not into attics — so they could be seen by rescue helicopters.

“It is bad and growing worse,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who added that the storm had inflicted billions of dollars in damage.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner dismissed the idea that evacuations should have been ordered sooner.

“You cannot put, in the city of Houston, 2.3 million people on the road. That is dangerous,” Turner told reporters.

“You issue an evacuation order and put everybody on the highway — you really are asking for a major calamity.”

US President Donald Trump, who was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat, said he would visit the Lone Star State as soon as he could “without causing disruption.”

“The focus must be on life and safety,” he said in a series of tweets about the disaster, his first major domestic challenge since taking office in January.

At least three people have died since Harvey made landfall, spawning tornadoes and lashing east and central Texas with torrential rains, but authorities said they could not yet confirm other possible fatalities.

In Houston, a woman drowned when she left a car which had stalled in high water, and another man was found dead in a flooded Wal-Mart parking lot in the Galveston area, officials confirmed.

Local officials said Saturday one person was killed when a house caught fire in the Rockport area, where Harvey made landfall late Friday.

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

Houston opened community centers to shelter people forced out of their homes, but the mayor appealed to residents to stay put and not call the 911 emergency line unless they faced a life-threatening situation.

“Do not get on the road,” Turner said.

“Even if there’s a lull today, don’t assume the storm is over.”