Thousands rescued amid Houston floods, as many others await help

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |  Aug. 28, 2017 at 1:54 PM
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Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Thousands of rescues have been performed by emergency services and ordinary citizens in Houston since Tropical Storm Harvey arrived -- and dozens more are waiting for their turn.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday more than 2,000 rescues have been completed since Harvey reached Texas' coast on Friday. Fire officials said mid-Monday that about 185 critical rescue requests are still pending.

In order to deal with the scale of the disaster, authorities have dispatched additional resources to 911 emergency call centers -- and facilities outside Houston have also been recruited to also handle calls.

In one rescue, KHOU 11 News reporter Brandi Smith and photographer Mario Sandoval, who were covering the floods, came to the aid of a man trapped inside a flooded truck. Smith flagged down a Harris County Sheriff truck towing a boat that was driving by.

Though the deputies were en route to another rescue, they stopped to help.

"I just thank God that you guys were right here to get me and put me back on land safely," Robert told Smith and the deputies. "I appreciate you."

Houston Police have called on those with a boat who can volunteer to help.

A volunteer group from Louisiana known as the "Cajun Navy," formed in the 2005 wake of Hurricane Katrina, reached Houston on Monday.

"We started deploying people this morning at 3 a.m. There are hundreds of volunteers and we've already made hundreds of rescues," Cain told CNN. "Our goal is to help people get out ... get them to safety."

Many residents sought refuge on the roof of their homes, and some families got separated during their rescues.

Robert Durbin, 33, was airlifted to an empty Houston traffic lane on Sunday. The rescuers quickly unhooked him and sped off, while Durbin had to find his wife -- who was rescued minutes earlier.

Durbin ran without shoes through littered streets and scanned for signs of his wife -- finally finding her inside a TV news crew's vehicle. The couple then mounted efforts to reunite with their daughters, who were staying at a relative's house.

"That was insane," Durbin said.

Officials have urged residents to avoid driving due to potential flash flooding risks. As always, the motto for drivers encountering floodwaters is, "Turn around, don't drown."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he activated the entire Texas National Guard in response to the ongoing disaster. There are now about 12,000 deployed guardsmen.

"It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm," Abbott said in a statement. "The Texas National Guard is working closely with FEMA and federal troops to respond urgently to the growing needs of Texans who have fallen victim to Hurricane Harvey, and the activation of the entire Guard will assist in the efforts already underway."

As Houston struggles to keep the death toll down, the city of Dallas and other communities in Harvey's path are working to minimize the storm's impact there.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings outlined some of his city's plans to deal with the severe weather, adding that a shelter for Harvey evacuees will be set up at a convention center.

We may have thousands upon thousands upon thousands of individuals coming here," he said.

Harvey is forecast to continue weakening as it moves inland, but several inches of rain is still expected to fall on cities in the storm's path in the coming days.

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