Houston — Officials in Houston sought Friday to safeguard parts of their devastated city by intentionally flooding others that were inundated by Harvey, which retained enough rain-making power to raise the risk of flooding in the middle of the country a week after it slammed into Texas.

The mayor announced plans to release water from two reservoirs that could keep as many as 20,000 homes flooded for up to 15 days.

In another Texas city with no drinking water, people waited in a line that stretched for more than a mile to get bottled water. And aerial video broadcast Friday evening showed a new fire at a crippled Houston-area chemical plant that was the scene of an earlier explosion and fire.

Residents of the still-flooded western part of Houston were told to evacuate ahead of the planned release from two reservoirs protecting downtown. The move was expected to flood homes that were filled with water earlier in the week. Homes that are not currently flooded probably will not be affected, officials said.

It could take three months for the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which are normally dry, to drain. The Harris County Flood Control District said it had to continue releasing water to protect the reservoirs’ structural integrity and in case more heavy rain falls.

Some of the affected houses have several feet of water in them, and the water reaches to the rooftops of others, district meteorologist Jeff Lindner said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner pleaded for more high-water vehicles and more search-and-rescue equipment as the nation’s fourth-largest city continued looking for any survivors or corpses that might have somehow escaped notice in flood-ravaged neighborhoods.

Search teams quickly worked their way down streets, sometimes not even knocking on doors if there were obvious signs that all was well.

Turner also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more workers to process applications from thousands of people seeking government help. The mayor said he will request a preliminary aid package of $75 million for debris removal alone.

The storm lost most of its tropical characteristics but remained a source of heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding as far north as Indiana.

National Weather Service meteorologists expect Harvey to break up and merge with other weather systems over the Ohio Valley late Saturday or Sunday.

The Texas city of Beaumont, home to almost 120,000 people near the Louisiana state line, was trying to bring in enough bottled water for people who stayed behind after a water pumping station was overwhelmed by the swollen Neches River.

Authorities raised the death toll from the storm to 39 late Thursday.

Gov. Greg Abbott warned Friday in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it could take years for Texas to “dig out from this catastrophe.” President Donald Trump will be going to Texas and Louisiana on Saturday to survey the damage.

At the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up once again. The company has blamed the blasts and fires on floodwaters that engulfed the plant’s backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep unstable compounds from degrading and catching fire.

Hurricane Harvey-related fraud

Federal prosecutors will lead a new Houston-based group created to help law enforcement agencies respond to an inevitable wave of fraud and other criminal activity set off by Harvey’s punishing rains.

Authorities are warning residents, volunteers and officials in flood zones in Texas and Louisiana they could be targeted by storm-related scams, contract corruption, document fraud, identify theft and other crimes. They emphasize that the easy availability of personal information and documents on the internet has widened criminal activities and potential victims to anywhere in the U.S.

The new working group was intended to combine Justice Department prosecutors, FBI and other federal law enforcement agents with Texas and Louisiana state officials in a team aimed at quickly identifying criminal trends and deploying resources for investigations and prosecutions.


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