America's fourth largest city Houston is "open for business", the city's mayor has said even as some parts of the metropolis remain flooded and the cost of damage caused by the devastating hurricane Harvey could exceed a whopping USD 180 billion.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said much of the city was hoping to get back on track after Labour Day. Parts of the city are reeling under floodwaters which contain a toxic brew of chemicals.
Turner said he had asked Donald Trump for rapid repair assistance during the US President's visit to the city this weekend.
"Houston's immediate priorities are housing, housing, housing," Turner told CBS yesterday.
Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, brought 52 inches of rain to some parts of the Houston and resulted in at least 50 deaths. The ferocious storm, which knocked out 30 per cent of US oil refining capacity, has led to price spikes and sporadic gasoline shortages in some parts of the city.
Flood models released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency show more than 90,000 residential structures in Harris, Galveston and Fort Bend Counties could have been damaged by flood waters from the storm.
Only 15 per cent of Harris County's 1.5 million properties, which includes Houston, are insured for floods.
Despite all that, Turner said much of the city was hoping to get back on track after Labour Day.
"Anyone who was planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city, you can still come. We can do multiple things at the same time," , Turner, a Democrat, said.
The 1.5-mile evacuation zone around the Arkema facility was lifted today and officials said it was safe for residents to return to their homes.
Authorities said they would continue to monitor air quality around the site.
Floodwaters have also inundated at least five Superfund toxic waste near Houston and some may have been damaged even though the environmental officials have yet to assess the full extent of what occurred.
Turner said Houston's drinking water hadn't been affected by the storm.
"We would hope that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be on the ground now to take a look at those Superfund sites, to make sure that contamination is contained and limited," Turner said.
Utility crews went door-to-door yesterday shutting off power and warning those still in some waterlogged homes in western parts of the city that more flooding was possible, not from rain, but from releases of water from overtaxed reservoirs.
Thousands of Houston dwellings were under mandatory evacuation orders, though about 300 people were thought to be refusing to leave.
According to data compiled by Solera Holdings, up to half a million cars have been damaged in Texas. Even rental vehicles have likely been damaged in Houston, a city where 94 per cent of the population owns a car.
People briefly returned yesterday to some homes in the area.
In Austin, Governor Greg Abbott seemed to pump the brakes on the rush to rebuild, calling for new development restrictions in order to prevent future flooding disasters.
In the past, local plans to limit and control storm runoff have been sidetracked by high costs and opposition from business and development interests in a city without zoning controls.
"As we go through the build-out phase, and rebuilding Texas, part of our focus must be on rebuilding in a way that will prevent a disaster like this from happening again," Abbott told reporters before speaking during Sunday services at the Hyde Park Baptist Church, on the official Day of Prayer he proclaimed last week in Harvey's aftermath.
As part of his continuing message of collaboration with local officials, Abbott said he has pledged to work to guard against another Harvey-like flood disaster which some officials speculate could top USD 200 billion in damage, more than hurricanes Rita and Sandy combined.
Meanwhile, repairs continued on the water treatment plant in Beaumont, about 85 miles from Houston, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps halted.
More than 1,000 people continued to shelter at the George R Brown Convention Center, down significantly from the 10,000 person peak a week earlier.
Another 2,600 remained at NRG Center. Officials said those still there were likely be the hardest to relocate, either because their homes were damaged beyond repair, or because floodwaters still haven't subsided.
(This article has not been edited by Zeebiz editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)