Thursday, December 14 2017

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Trump praises Texans on trip to Harvey disaster zone

Update: August, 30/2017 - 11:00
US President Donald Trump speaks at the Texas Department of Public Safety Emergency Operations Center in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, as rains from Hurricane Harvey continue to flood parts of Texas. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

CORPUS CHRISTI, United States — President Donald Trump toured the Harvey disaster zone in Texas on Tuesday as he sought to project an image of leadership in America’s first big natural disaster since he took office, as the battered US Gulf Coast girded for another hit from the huge storm.

Four days after Harvey slammed onshore as a Category Four hurricane, turning roads into rivers and neighborhoods into lakes in America’s fourth-largest city, emergency crews still struggled to reach hundreds of stranded people in a massive round-the-clock rescue operation.

Rain and more rain kept falling, with no sign of the nightmare easing.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared a nighttime curfew as the city tries to head off looting in the wake of epic flooding from Harvey.

The White House announced that Trump already plans to go back to Texas on Saturday -- a surprisingly quick return to a disaster zone for a US president.

Trump, sporting a "USA" baseball cap and clutching a Texas flag with its trademark lone star, tried Tuesday to strike a unifying tone as he visited the coastal city of Corpus Christi, praising the work of state and federal officials in responding to the disaster.

"We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it," he said.

Emerging from a briefing held inside a fire station, Trump climbed up a ladder for an impromptu address to the mix of supporters and banner-waving protesters gathered outside.

"We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you," the president called out. "It’s historic, its epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas -- and Texas can handle anything."

"What a crowd, what a turnout," Trump added, as if addressing a political rally.

The US leader and First Lady Melania avoided visiting Houston -- swathes of which remain under water -- to avoid disrupting recovery efforts.

But the president was nevertheless seeking to make a political statement, learning from the mistakes of former Republican leader George W. Bush, whose response to Hurricane Katrina -- which walloped New Orleans exactly 12 years ago -- was widely seen as botched.

Harvey, now a tropical storm, has so far driven more than 8,000 people into emergency shelters across the Lone Star State, and hundreds more still await rescue.

"We’re Trumponites. I trust he’s going to take care of us," said Darla Fitzgerald, a 58-year-old nurse based in a Red Cross shelter in Winnie, a small town east of Houston, where the rain fell heavily on Tuesday.

One more victim

A Houston police officer was confirmed as the latest victim of the storm after the body of Steve Perez, who went missing after reporting for duty in the early hours of Sunday, was recovered by divers two days later.

Harvey was previously known to have left at least three people dead, with six more fatalities potentially tied to the storm, and officials warned the danger has far from passed.

On Air Force One bringing Trump back to Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president will return to Texas Saturday and perhaps go to Louisiana, too, depending on the weather there.

"We’ll go back into a different part of the state, to have a chance to see some of the areas we were not able to today," she said.

She said Trump and the first lady were very moved by what they saw at the disaster zone.

"I think he’s made very clear the priority is taking care of the people," she said.

Everywhere, the figures from the storm are staggering. The National Weather Service said over six million Texans have been impacted by 30 inches or more of rain since Friday. — AFP

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