54 counties in Texas declared state of disaster areas

Catastrophic flooding is hitting Houston as tropical storm Harvey continues to stall over land. It has dumped as much as 26 inches (66cm) of rain in some counties in the past 72 hours and much more is expected until Friday.

Harvey became the most powerful storm to strike Texas in more than 50 years when it came ashore on Friday August 25th near Corpus Christi about 350 kilometers south of Houston.

Thousands of people have fled to their rooftops or higher ground as rescuers struggled to keep up with calls for help. Houston emergency services have received nearly 6,000 appeals for rescues. The coast guard said it had rescued 1,200 people, of which 200 were from the air.

Estimates of the death toll vary, but at least 14 people have been confirmed dead due to tropical storm Harvey, including one woman who died when a large tree dislodged by heavy rains from Harvey toppled onto her trailer home.

54 counties in Texas has been declared state disaster areas by the governor, Greg Abbott and a Hurricane Harvey relief fund has been set up to take donations from the public. It will be administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

US President Donald Trump, facing the biggest natural disaster since he took office in January, declared areas of Texas and Louisiana disaster zones, triggering federal relief efforts.

Both of Houston’s major airports were shut down, along with most major highways, rail lines and a hospital, where patients were evacuated over the weekend.

As of Monday evening, 267,000 Texans were left without power in the south-east corner of the state.

Judging from federal disaster declarations, the storm has so far affected about a quarter of the Texas population, or 6.8 million people..

Dallas, 386 kilometers north of Houston, will set up a “mega shelter” at its convention centre to house 5,000 evacuees, the city said in a statement.