Friday 19 January 2018

Hurricane damage could hit €150bn, says Texas

A volunteer heads out on a jet ski to look for people in need of help in Orange, Texas, yesterday. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
A volunteer heads out on a jet ski to look for people in need of help in Orange, Texas, yesterday. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Marianna Parraga

The damage from Hurricane Harvey could hit $180bn (€150bn), making it more costly than epic hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, according to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Harvey, which first came ashore on August 25 as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in 50 years, has killed an estimated 47 people, displaced more than one million and damaged nearly 200,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for almost 500km.

Mr Abbott, who is pleading for US government aid for his state's recovery, said the damage would exceed that of Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005, and Sandy, which overwhelmed New York city and the US Northeast in 2012.

"Katrina caused if I recall more than $120bn but when you look at the number of homes and businesses affected by this I think this will cost well over $120bn, probably $150bn to $180bn," Mr Abbott said, warning: "This is far larger than Hurricane Sandy."

Us President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.85bn (€6.6bn) for recovery efforts, which Mr Abbott called a "down payment".

Even that amount could be delayed unless Congress quickly increases the government's debt limit, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday. The US is on track to hit its debt limit by the end of the month unless Congress increases it.

"Without raising the debt limit, I am not comfortable that we will get money to Texas this month to rebuild," Mr Mnuchin said.

Beyond the immediate funding, any massive aid package faces budget pressures at a time when Mr Trump is advocating for tax reform or tax cuts, leading some on Capitol Hill to suggest aid may be released in a series of smaller batches.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) called federal aid a "ray of hope" but said state and local officials also needed to do their part.

"They can't depend only on federal emergency management," said Fema administrator Brook Long.

Houston was still struggling to recover yesterday, when the city forced the evacuation of thousands of people on the western side of town who were affected by the release of floodwater that had built up in a reservoir.

The city cut off power to homes yesterday morning to encourage evacuation of those who had been reluctant to leave.

Irish Independent

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