Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard for rescue and recovery operations and praised the efforts of officials at all levels of the government during a news conference Monday afternoon.
The governor said he authorized the deployment of some 12,000 members of the guard to Corpus Christi, Houston and the surrounding areas.
"Our No. 1 goal ... is still protecting and preserving life and rescuing every person we can find," he said from Austin.
Texas officials have said the storm and subsequent flooding killed at least six people.
The National Weather Service said Tropical Storm Harvey brought unprecedented flooding to parts of central and west Harris County, which is where Houston is located. Many locations of the Houston metro area are underwater and officials are concerned more people could become trapped due to structural damage, weakened bridges or breached levees.
So far, more than 2,000 people have been rescued and at least nine people are dead due to the severe storm. Most locations under mandatory or voluntary evacuations are southeast of Houston's city center.
Abbott said power workers are attempting to restore electricity in the Corpus Christi area in the next couple of days, and counties affected by the storm were setting up distribution points for food, water and other supplies.
Buses were evacuating people in some of the hardest hit areas and transporting them to other cities throughout the state including San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. When questioned about why some areas weren't evacuated before the storm hit, Abbott said those decisions "are behind us."
"We need to focus on first protecting life and doing all we can to rescue those who are in danger.
"Our lives are not determined by the ways in which we are challenged but how we respond to the challenges we face," he added.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said in an earlier press conference Monday that more than 30,000 people are expected to be sheltered temporarily in the region -- displaced by the state's worst storm in nearly a decade.
"This is still an ongoing situation. We're not at recovery yet," Long said at Monday's conference. "This is a life-safety, life-sustaining mission."
Long said up to 50 Texas counties have been affected by Harvey and 18 of those counties are eligible for federal aid. He said more counties may become eligible for FEMA resources as the effects of the storm become more clear.
Abbott applauded emergency and rescue efforts by local and state law enforcement as well as the federal government. He said he spoke to President Donald Trump prior to his Monday afternoon news conference.
"He asked me to pass on to these local leaders his gratitude and how impressed he was" with emergency efforts," Abbott said, adding that he would give the federal government an "A-plus" for its reaction to the disaster.
The federal response to Harvey includes providing electricity to essential locations, such as hospitals and 911 call centers, and delivering essential items as quickly as possible.
"Helping Texas overcome this disaster is going to be greater than FEMA coordinating the mission of the entire federal government," Long said. "We need citizens to be involved. This is a landmark event, we have not seen an event like this. You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up."
Officials have urged residents in southeast Texas to boil water as a precaution, in case drinking water becomes scarce.
Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm late Friday night, was downgraded to a tropical storm hours later but continued to overwhelm the region of 6 million people, including 2 million in Houston alone.
Most highways and roads were impassable except for boats. Rivers were above flood stage, people were being rescued from their roofs and one of its two Level 1 trauma centers was evacuated.
Trump said Monday he would convene a Cabinet meeting at 11 a.m. to address the ongoing situation in Texas and Louisiana.
"I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety," Trump also wrote on Twitter.
Trump on Monday also approved an emergency declaration due to rain and flooding in Louisiana, where parts of the state could see up to 25 inches of rain fall.
As social media continues to reveal endless images from the disaster, a photograph from a nursing home near Galveston summarized much of Harvey's impact. Taken at the La Bella Vita home in Dickinson, Texas, it shows several elderly residents in a room partially submerged in water -- some of them sitting with only their upper halves visible.
"Need help asap emergency services please," La Bella Vita owner Timothy McIntosh wrote.
Those in the nursing home were taken to safety, officials said.
La vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson Texas is almost underwater with nursing home patients pic.twitter.com/oCNkrgoRZY- Timothy J. McIntosh (@DividendsMGR) August 27, 2017