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Harvey moves into Louisiana with at least 25 dead, 17 missing

The storm has forced 32,000 people into shelters since coming ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century.

Residents navigate a flooded street that has been inundated with water from Hurricane Harvey on 27 August 2017 in Houston, Texas. Picture: AFP

LAKE CHARLES, HOUSTON – Tropical Storm Harvey spun across southeastern Texas into Louisiana on Wednesday, sending more people fleeing for shelter after swamping Houston with record rains and flooding that killed at least 25 and drove tens of thousands from their homes.

The storm has forced 32,000 people into shelters since coming ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century. On Wednesday, it pummelled the coast from Port Arthur, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Harvey weakened to a tropical depression on Wednesday night, the US National Hurricane Center said, but the forecaster warned that “catastrophic and life threatening flooding will continue in and around Houston, Beaumont/Port Arthur, eastward into southwest Louisiana for the rest of the week.”

Among the latest deaths reported were a married couple who drowned while driving through high water near Simonton, Texas, Major Chad Norvell of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. The Houston Chronicle identified the victims as Donald and Rochelle Rogers of Katy, Texas.

Houston’s KHOU-TV reported that an infant girl was swept away after her parents got out of their pickup truck near New Waverly, Texas, and tried to carry her across rushing water.

Police in Harris County, home to Houston, said 17 people remained missing.

Busloads of people fleeing floodwaters around Port Arthur arrived in Lake Charles, joining local residents who had already packed into shelters to escape waterlogged homes. About 254,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas and Louisiana, according to figures from four utilities.

Harvey was forecast to drop a further 7.5-15 cm of rain on Wednesday, with a storm surge of up to 1.2 m along the western part of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, although the Houston area was finally expected to get a break with no rain forecast for Thursday or Friday.

The floods shut the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur in the latest hit to US energy infrastructure that has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies.

ANOTHER WEEK OF FLOODING

Moody’s Analytics is estimating the economic cost from Harvey for southeast Texas at $51 billion to $75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in US history.

At least $23 billion worth of property has been affected by flooding from Harvey just in parts of Texas’ Harris and Galveston counties, a Reuters analysis of satellite imagery and property data showed.

“The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned,” Governor Greg Abbott said.

He warned residents of storm-hit areas to expect floodwaters to linger for up to a week and said the area affected was larger than that hit by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in New Orleans, and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which killed 132 around New York and New Jersey.

The population of Houston’s metropolitan area is about 6.5 million, far greater than New Orleans’ at the time of Katrina. Abbott asked that the federal government spend more on rebuilding Texas’ Gulf Coast than it did after the earlier storms.

A day after visiting Texas to survey the damage, US President Donald Trump pledged on Wednesday to stand by the people of Texas and Louisiana.