Hous­ton res­i­dents con­front of­fi­cials over de­ci­sion to flood neigh­bour­hoods

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

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

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