Trump returning to Texas to meet Harvey survivors

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Washington, Sep 2 (IANS) US President Donald Trump is due to visit the US state of Texas later on Saturday, this time to meet the families whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Harvey as well as volunteers with the rescue and recovery efforts.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump plan on visiting Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana, both areas hit with severe floods, ABC News reported.

This will be Trump’s second trip to Texas since Harvey hit the southeast part of the state last Friday, leaving many displaced and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

Harvey has been blamed for at least 47 deaths, and about 43,000 people are currently housed in shelters. Trump has asked Congress for $7.8 billion in recovery aid and has pledged to give $1 million from his personal funds to help disaster relief in Texas and Louisiana.

The President on Tuesday visited Corpus Christi and Austin, Texas, but opted to spend time with state and local officials rather than meeting hurricane survivors or seeing the damage firsthand.

He praised and thanked government officials and emergency responders, but did not make specific mention of victims of the storm.

The Vice President’s trip on Thursday stood out in contrast to the President’s visit. Pence hugged survivors and prayed with them, as well as helped clear away debris from a damaged home.

Harvey is the first natural disaster Trump has had to respond to during his presidency and he was slammed for his lack of empathy for the region in crisis.

The President has declared Sunday a “National Day of Prayer” for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday that the city was starting to enter a recovery phase. He also said Houston’s electrical grid was slowly recovering and that fewer than 35,000 homes were without power at the moment, CNN reported.

Garbage collection and mass transit service in the city also resumed. But the recovery effort is just beginning in the hardest-hit areas, with the White House estimating that 100,000 homes have been damaged and state authorities putting the number at 185,000.

The total cost of recovery and rebuilding could be as high as $190 billion, which would make Harvey the costliest natural disaster in US history, media reports said.

The storm, which first made landfall last week in southern Texas as the strongest hurricane to hit the US in 13 years and then made a second landfall as a tropical storm in Louisiana early Wednesday, also brought torrential rain and severe flooding to that neighbouring state.

–IANS

soni/bg

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