Houston residents confront officials over decision to flood neighbourhoods
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Angry Houston residents shouted at city officials on Saturday over decisions to intentionally flood certain neighbourhoods during Hurricane Harvey, as they returned to homes that may have been contaminated by overflowing sewers.
A town hall grew heated after City Council member Greg Travis, who represents parts of western Houston, told about 250 people that an Army Corps of Engineers official told him that certain gauges measuring water levels at the Buffalo Bayou - the city’s main waterway - failed due to a decision to release water from two municipal reservoirs to avoid an overflow.
Travis’ words inflamed tensions at the town hall, held at the Westin Houston hotel, as the region struggled to recover from Hurricane Harvey, which dropped as much as 50 inches (127 cm) of rain in some areas along Texas’ Gulf Coast, triggering historic floods.
More than 450,000 people either still do not have safe drinking water or need to boil their water first.
On Aug. 28, the Army Corps and the Harris County Flood Control District opened the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in western Houston to keep them from overflowing. They warned it would flood neighbourhoods, some of which remained closed off two weeks later.
Travis said the Army Corps official said they kept releasing water without knowing the extent of the flooding. “They didn’t understand that the bathtub effect was occurring,” he said.
Residents attempting to return to flooded homes may have to contend with contaminated water and air because the city’s sewer systems overflowed during the floods. Fire chief Samuel Pena said people returning home should wear breathing masks and consider getting tetanus shots.
“We couldn’t survive the Corps - why should we rebuild?” Debora Kumbalek, who lives in Travis’ district in Houston, shouted during the town hall.
Scattered heaps of discarded appliances, wallboard and mattresses can be still seen throughout the city of 2.7 million people, the nation’s fourth-largest. (Reuters)
The clean-up continued yesterday at a neighbourhood shopping plaza following the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, US