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Storm Harvey: 1,000 rescued as Houston hit by 'catastrophic floods'

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Media captionTexas took a battering and is witnessing severe flooding

More than 1,000 people have been rescued in flooded parts of Houston, as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter Texas with heavy rains.

There is a “flash flood emergency” across the Houston Metro area, with travel near impossible, the National Weather Service says.

It noted reports of five fatalities in the Houston area, but only one has been confirmed there so far.

Governor Greg Abbott has said that severe flooding is his main worry.

Mr Abbott said the cities of Houston and Corpus Christi had already received as much as 20in (50cm) of rain.

Two deaths have been confirmed from the storm:

  • In Aransas County, where Rockport is the chief town, a person died in a house fire on Friday night
  • A woman died in Houston as she drove through flooded streets on Saturday

Image copyright Houston Transtar

Rescue efforts are being hampered by strong winds and thousands are without power.

Mr Abbott said another 40in of rain could be due before the storm subsides midweek.

The weather service has issued flash flood emergency warnings for many counties in south-eastern Texas.

“Epic catastrophic flooding” occurred in the Houston and Galveston areas overnight, the National Weather Service says, with heavy rains continuing.

In some places, storms are producing rainfall of 4in to 6in per hour, it said in the early hours of Sunday local time.

“Many creeks, rivers and bayous have flooded and have surpassed previous flood record levels.”

Travel in the Houston area “is severely hampered if not impossible”, it said, advising people to move to higher ground amid “an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation”.

“Over 1,000 high-water rescues have been performed and in some places emergency crews cannot reach the worst hit areas,” it said.

Residents were warned not to try to travel unless “fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order”.

Harvey began as a major category four hurricane – the first to make landfall in the US in 13 years when it arrived late Friday – but was downgraded to a tropical storm later on Saturday.

It is forecast to meander across south-east Texas until Wednesday.

Governor Abbott has mobilised 1,800 military personnel to help with rescue and repair operations.

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Media captionThe BBC’s James Cook is in Rockport, which bore the brunt of the storm

The storm is the strongest to hit the US since Charley in August 2004 and the most powerful to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961, which killed 34 people, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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