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Monday 20 January 2020

Trump prepares to visit Texas in the wake of devastating Hurricane Harvey

Texas National Guard soldiers aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017 Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD/Texas Military Department/Handout via REUTERS
Texas National Guard soldiers aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017 Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD/Texas Military Department/Handout via REUTERS
Swim for it: A flooded back garden in Smithville, Texas (Austin American-Statesman/AP)
The end wall of the Fairfield Inn is seen partially missing after Hurricane Harvey struck in Rockport, Texas, August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey on an air boat in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Jesus Rodriguez rescues Gloria Garcia after rain from Hurricane Harvey flooded Pearland, in the outskirts of Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
An eighteen wheel tractor trailer is stranded on Interstate highway 45 which is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson
A dead dog lies out of the passenger window of an overturned pickup truck after Hurricane Harvey landed in the Coast Bend area in Port Aransas, Texas, on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. Harvey came ashore Friday along the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds, the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade. (Gabe Hernandez/Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP)
Lisa Rehr holds her four-year old son Maximus, after they lost their home to Hurricane Harvey, as they await to be evacuated with their belongings from Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after flooding due to Hurricane Harvey inundated neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via REUTERS.
Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after flooding due to Hurricane Harvey inundated neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via REUTERS
This enhanced satellite image made available by the NOAA GOES Project shows Harvey, upper left, over Texas on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. The remnants of the hurricane spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain. (NASA/NOAA via AP)
Evacuees leave a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after being rescued from flooding due to Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via REUTERS.
Larry Keller and his wife Lisa Keller exit a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that rescued them from their home after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Texas suffers under the worst tropical storm in decades (Marie D De Jesus/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Hope Yen and Ken Thomas

President Donald Trump is preparing to visit Texas to view the federal government's response to Harvey's devastating flooding as his administration vowed to help the millions of residents dealing with the catastrophic storm.

Harvey represented the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency and a significant test for a White House that is often chaotic and rife with infighting.

Attention on Harvey from officials, the public and the news media also allowed President Trump to refocus after a turbulent stretch that included his widely criticised response to the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a series of radio interviews on Monday that the Trump administration would "be there for the long haul to help rebuild Texas and all the affected areas from Hurricane Harvey".

He estimated 500,000 Americans could be eligible for disaster assistance.

"The president has been continuously engaged in this. We've all been deeply concerned by the impact of this storm," Mr Pence told KTRH radio in Houston.

"We're saddened by the loss of life and the president is anxious to come to the region."

Mr Pence said President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Cabinet officials would visit on Tuesday.

President Trump spent most of the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, and convened his Cabinet by telephone during the weekend.

He tweeted on Sunday a promise of a Texas visit "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption" - later announced by the White House as Tuesday.

Details on the president's itinerary were not yet immediately available.

But by traveling to the region just days after Harvey made landfall, the president raised questions among his critics on whether his presence would complicate efforts by emergency responders to help Texans still in need.

Jennifer Psaki, a former aide to President Barack Obama, tweeted: "It is always a tricky calculation on when to go, but @realDonaldTrump going too early to Texas (tues) would divert significant resources."

Texas Gov Greg Abbott, a Republican and Trump ally, however, loaded heavy praise on the president and the federal government, describing it as an "A-plus" effort.

"I've got to tell you, I give Fema a grade of A+, all the way from the president down," Mr Abbott said.

"I've spoken to the president several times, to his Cabinet members, such as secretary of homeland security, such as the administrator of Fema, such as Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services."

The devastating storm has dumped more than two feet of rain, sending thousands of people in Houston to rooftops for rescue and prompting a warning from Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long of a "landmark event" that could require years to get damaged areas back on track.

Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved north east along the Texas coast over Houston.

Mr Abbott said he expected heavy rain "for days to come".

The governor commended President Trump for being "extremely professional, very helpful" in moving quickly to grant his request on Friday for an immediate disaster declaration, which triggers additional federal assistance to aggrieved areas.

Meanwhile, a group of pensioners who were caught in the extreme flooding after an image of their almost submerged nursing home went viral on social media.

The distressing image was posted alongside an appeal for help.

It was later confirmed that 15 people were rescued from La Vita Bella, an assisted living facility in Dickinson, about 30 miles south of Houston.

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