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1,000 rescued but death toll expected to rise

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Residents urged to stay off streets in strongest storm to hit Texas in decades

HOUSTON Emergency crews raced to pull people from cars and homes as waters rose across south-east Texas yesterday, rescuing more than 1,000 people in the Houston area as Hurricane Harvey pounded the region.

Harvey came ashore late Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years and has killed at least two people. The death toll is expected to rise as the storm lashes the state for days, triggering more floods, tidal surges and tornadoes.

Harvey is forecast to arc slowly toward Houston, the fourth most populous city in the US, through Wednesday.

Emergency services told people to climb onto the roofs rather than into attics to escape rapidly rising waters. The authorities warned the city's more than two million residents not to leave flooded homes because manyroads were underwater.

The Twitter account of the sheriff of Harris County, which includes most of Houston, was inundated with rescue requests.

"All agencies care but everyone is simply operating at maximum capacity," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had tweeted at one point.

He had also said his deputies responded to unconfirmed reports of a deceased woman and child inside a submerged vehicle on a highway near Houston.


Another resident described seeing a woman's body floating in the streets during a flash flood in west Houston. The flood was several feet high, the resident told local TV station abc13.

The authorities have urged residents to stay off streets of cities across south-east Texas as rain fell at up to 12.7cm an hour.

"There are a number of stranded people on our streets, calling 911, exhausting needed resources. You can help by staying off the streets," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter.

Energy production in the heart of the country's oil and gas industry was disrupted as several refineries and offshore platforms closed down, triggering a rise in gasoline prices.

Exxon Mobil yesterday said it was shutting down the second largest refinery in the US at Baytown in Texas.

More than 45 per cent of the country's refining capacity is along the Gulf Coast, and nearly a fifth of the nation's crude oil is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he expected disruption to the energy industry to last one or two weeks.

The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 20 people from distressed vessels on Saturday, and was monitoring two Carnival cruise ships carrying thousands of people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. - REUTERS

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