Trump meets flooding victims, volunteers in Houston



HOUSTON, TEXAS, Frank Fuhrig and Anne K Walters (dpa)- US President Donald Trump stooped to hug children at a shelter for hurricane Harvey victims before serving food to the temporary residents of a stadium in Houston as he toured areas hit by the storm on Saturday.
Trump pledged government aid to help residents in the fourth-largest US city as flood waters began to recede and the scale of the destruction became more apparent.



The death toll from the storm has surpassed 50 and is likely to climb further as authorities continue to survey flooded homes, the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported Saturday based on information from local officials.
Trump was accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, several cabinet officials and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his second trip to Texas in a week.
Trump also met with volunteers collecting supplies at a Houston church, toured flood damage and met with Texas lawmakers.
Trump then travelled to the neighbouring state of Louisiana, where Harvey made landfall a second time and dumped heavy rain along the Texas-Louisiana border.
He meet lawmakers, members of the National Guard and citizens who had helped launch boat rescues of stranded residents.
Trump told reporters that government efforts to aid storm victims had been "well received," and that he hoped his request for immediate aid would be quickly approved by Congress.
"They're really happy with what's going on," Trump said of his conversations with victims about the government response.
The White House late Friday requested Congress approve 7.85 billion dollars in emergency funding to deal with the devastation.
The figure would soon be followed by another request for 6.7 billion dollars, according to a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Trump also signed an amended disaster declaration to help the state of Texas deal with the aftermath of Harvey.
Trump is increasing the percentage of disaster funding covered by the government in Washington from 75 per cent of total costs to 90 per cent of debris removal costs and 100 per cent of emergency protective measures for the next 30 days.
Trump initially visited Texas on Tuesday as the storm was ongoing to be briefed on the disaster response, but did not meet with storm victims or tour devastated areas amid the ongoing rescue efforts.
Trump drew criticism for a tweet about "witnessing first hand the horror & devastation" in the wake of the hurricane, though his first visit to the state kept him at a distance from the actual disaster.
Water levels were dropping in Houston and no rain was expected in the area over the weekend, but authorities were still dealing with massive damage and the need to restore basic services.
In Beaumont, some 160 kilometres east of Houston, residents remained without water service and were waiting in long lines to receive cases of bottled water.
AccuWeather, a private meteorological agency, predicted the cost of Harvey will exceed 190 billion dollars, or about 1 per cent of US gross domestic product.
Local flood control authorities said nearly 4 trillion litres of water fell on Harris County, where Houston is located, and 136,000 buildings were flooded after Harvey made landfall as a category-4 hurricane one week ago.
Some 70 per cent of the county's 4,500 square kilometres had been covered in half a metre of water, said Francisco Sanchez, spokesman for local emergency officials.
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Sunday, September 3rd 2017
Frank Fuhrig and Anne K Walters
           


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