Roundup: Storms kill 5 in Houston, recovery may take "weeks"


  • World
  • Saturday, 18 May 2024

HOUSTON, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The death toll of powerful storms ripping through Houston on Thursday night has risen to five as the largest city in the U.S. state of Texas is entering a "recovery mode" in the aftermath of widespread damage, authorities said on Friday.

A tornado was confirmed near Cypress in the northwest of the city with 100-mph straight line winds and tore over the downtown on Thursday, the U.S. National Weather Service said on Friday.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a joint press conference on Friday that the recovery would likely take weeks, not days. The county includes most of Houston.

OUTAGES

As of Friday morning, more than 700,000 people in the Houston area were still without power, according to CenterPoint Energy, which supplies electricity to the region.

"Some parts of the county ... are going to have to go a couple of weeks most likely without power," said Hidalgo.

More than 920,000 customers lost power at the height of outages, according to CenterPoint Energy, noting that strong winds caused "significant damage" to its infrastructure across the city.

"In certain parts of our service area where the damage to our infrastructure was significant, our restoration efforts are expected to take several days, and some of the hardest hit areas could take longer," the company said in a statement.

Paul Lock, a spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy, told local reporters that at least 10 transmission lines were down across the Houston area during the storms.

"If you depend on life-saving equipment, you need to make plans now to find another place to stay," Lock said.

Due to power outages, several major health facilities in Harris County closed or delayed the opening of outpatient facilities on Friday.

FATALITIES

The death toll of the storms has risen to at least five, four in the city of Houston, while one woman and her pet were killed in a mobile home fire in the Cypress area.

At least two deaths were linked with fallen trees. One of them, a woman, was killed inside a vehicle in her driveway with the tree on top of the car, according to a report from local newspaper The Houston Chronicle.

A man reportedly died while moving a power pole and another man was working on a construction project and sitting in a cement truck when a portable crane fell during high winds.

Two high school students were injured when their school bus was stuck during the fatal storm on Thursday, said the Houston Independent School District, the largest district of Texas and the eighth largest in the United States.

As many as 136 schools of the public school system had no power around 12 p.m. on Friday, said the district, which runs 274 schools in total.

DAMAGE

In the aftermath of the storm, fallen trees and downed power lines were extended across many neighborhoods in the Houston area.

Downtown Houston hit by tornado was a center of the havoc with shattered glass from highrise buildings sprawled across streets. Many roads remain closed as crews worked to clean up damage on Friday.

At least 2,500 traffic lights were not functioning on Friday, Whitmire, the Houston mayor, said at the news conference, asking people to avoid downtown Houston unless they were essential workers.

Houston's Solid Waste Department also announced that it halted collection services on Friday due to disruptions caused by the storms.

Most state district courts in Harris County closed on Friday, and jury service was cancelled.

Both the Houston mayor and Hidalgo said the city's recovery would likely take weeks, not days.

"The next few weeks are going to be hard," Hidalgo said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Friday that he has amended a disaster declaration he issued for storms battering Houston in April as part of the state's emergency response.

"I have since amended that declaration to ensure every community threatened by dangerous weather conditions would have access to necessary resources," he said in a statement.

Earlier this month, multiple rounds of thunderstorms caused deadly flooding across eastern Texas, including the Houston area, forcing evacuations and school closures.

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