August 30, 2017 / 2:17 PM / a year ago

U.S. says 195,000 people seek federal help after Harvey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 195,000 people have registered with the U.S. government for financial assistance due to massive flooding in Texas caused by Tropical Storm Harvey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Wednesday.

The number could grow as the slow-moving storm remained a threat after spending days over Houston. It dropped about 20 inches of rain overnight Wednesday in eastern Texas on its way towards Louisiana, FEMA Director Brock Long said at a press briefing.

So far, FEMA has awarded more than $35 million in immediate financial assistance to individuals who have registered, Long said.

Texas has more than 230 shelters housing some 30,000 people, he said. FEMA has also helped 1,700 families temporarily move into more than 2,000 hotel and motel rooms in five states.

Federal officials declined to estimate how many homes had been damaged or how much the storm may cost. They are still looking at other issues including whether temporary locations for schools will be needed, Long said.

Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft said officials are working to get southeast Texas ports reopened and keeping an eye on refineries, chemical plants and other facilities. The inner harbour of Corpus Christi will be surveyed Wednesday, he said.

“Even when we open the port it’ll take several days before those facility workers can get back to work,” Zukunft said.

Long said the government will need volunteers to help restore Texas after the flooding.

“The need to volunteer is going to take place over the next couple of years,” Long said, noting that the disaster covers 50 counties. The goal will be to quickly make repairs to get people back in their homes, he said.

“We’re still in life saving, life sustaining mode,” Long said.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe

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