HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump planned to visit Texas on Tuesday to survey the response to devastating Tropical Storm Harvey, the first major natural disaster of his White House tenure.
The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to Texas, killed at least nine people, led to mass evacuations and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous U.S. city.
It had also roiled energy markets and wrought damage estimated to be in the billions of dollars, with rebuilding likely to last beyond Trump’s current four-year term in office.
“My administration is coordinating closely with state and local authorities in Texas and Louisiana to save lives, and we thank our first responders and all of those involved in their efforts,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday.
Trump was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday morning in Corpus Christi, near where Harvey came ashore on Friday as the most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in more than 50 years. The president will later go to the Texas capital Austin to meet state officials, receive briefings and tour the emergency operation center, the White House said.
Forecasters could only draw on a few comparisons to the storm, recalling Hurricane Katrina, which lay waste to New Orleans and killed 1,800 people in 2005.
The administration of then-President George W. Bush drew accusations that his response was slow and inadequate – criticism that dealt a serious blow to his presidency.
Flood damage in Texas from Hurricane Harvey may equal that from Katrina, one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, an insurance research group said on Sunday.
In Texas, thousands of National Guard troops, police officers, rescue workers and civilians raced in helicopters, boats and high-water trucks to rescue the thousands stranded in the flooding, which transformed streets into rivers and caused chest-high water build-ups in scores of neighborhoods.