Rescuers began a block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes Thursday, pounding on doors and shouting as they looked for anyone, alive or dead, who might have been left behind in Harvey’s fetid floodwaters, which have now damaged more than 87,000 homes and destroyed nearly 7,000 statewide.
Elsewhere, the loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant set off explosions and a fire, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply. The remnants of the storm pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky. More than 200 firefighters, police officers and members of an urban search-and-rescue team fanned out across the Meyerland neighborhood for survivors or bodies. They yelled “fire department!” as they pounded with closed fists on doors, peered through windows and checked with neighbors. The streets were dry but heaped with soggy furniture, carpets, and personal belongings.
“We don’t think we’re going to find any humans, but we’re prepared if we do,” said District Chief James Pennington of the Houston Fire Department.
The confirmed death toll stood at 32, though it is expected to rise. But by midday, the temporary command center in a J.C. Penney parking lot had received no reports of more bodies from the searches, which are expected to take up to two weeks.
Unlike during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans, crews used GPS devices to log the homes they checked rather than painting neon X’s on the outside. That avoided alerting potential thieves to vacant homes.