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Rescue Operations Continue In Houston As Harvey Makes Landfall In Louisiana


In the city of Houston, the rain has stopped for now, and the sun has come out as the worst of Tropical Storm Harvey headed east through Port Arthur and into Louisiana. But other than that, not much has changed. At a news conference today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was blunt.


GREG ABBOTT: The worst is not yet over for Southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned.

MCEVERS: Homes that hadn't been flooded before now are in jeopardy. Rescue operations continue. At least 17 people have died, including a family of six, whose bodies were recovered today. NPR's Wade Goodwyn is covering Harvey. Hey there, Wade.


MCEVERS: Let's start with the story of this family in the white van. What happened?

GOODWYN: It's the Saldivar family - three generations in a van trying to get out of their neighborhood before it completely filled with water - four children in the back, 16 to 6, two great-grandparents and the great-uncle, seven all together - got about a mile across a bridge over one of those flooded bayous. But on the other side of the bridge, the road descended a bit.

And all of a sudden, the van was floating. And it floated right into the bayou. The great-uncle - you know, he was driving, managed to get out of his window but was forced to watch and listen in horror to the children screaming as the van sunk out of sight. They found it today. Here's Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.


ED GONZALEZ: Just now we were able to retrieve the van, pull it out of the water where it was in bank. So we have a total confirmed six dead here at the scene inside this van. Family - I just notified them. Obviously they are devastated, as we all are as well. Our worst fears have been realized.

GOODWYN: The Saldivar family is - you know, they're one of the great American and Houston success stories - four successful generations, lots of children, grandchildren all living in homes close to one another. And this is shattering. Can you imagine what that poor man who escaped must be going through?

MCEVERS: Yeah. It must be devastating. As we heard, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said this afternoon the worst is not over. Can you tell us what he's talking about specifically? What's to come?

GOODWYN: Well, first and foremost, the flood is still ongoing. In northwest Houston, there's a couple of reservoirs which are spilling into neighborhoods. So homes that weren't flooded before are taking on water. Other places, the water is receding. So I'm hearing there's already construction crews ripping out floors and drywall out of homes. You know, the sooner you can tear out the drywall, the less chance of mold. And get this. They're estimating that somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 homes have been flooded.

MCEVERS: And we understand that there is a critical situation at a chemical plant. What do you know about that?

GOODWYN: There sure is. It's in Cosby, which is just north of Houston. There's a plant there that produces extremely volatile chemicals, products that have to be refrigerated to keep them from exploding. And that plant's flooded. Power and backup power is compromised. And therefore so is the refrigeration. There are homes all around the plant, unfortunately. And last night, residents within a mile and a half were evacuated. And today the company's CEO - they just told us they no longer have any way to prevent an explosion. This is terrible news because this is toxic stuff.

MCEVERS: What else do we know about relief efforts and rescues? I mean how many people still need to be rescued - quickly, in the seconds that we have left.

GOODWYN: It's spreading its misery everywhere, you know? In Port Arthur, the evacuation itself has - shelter itself has taken on water. There's pictures of evacuees sleeping on cots surrounded by a lake of brown water, so that's some suboptimal planning right there.

MCEVERS: NPR's Wade Goodwyn, thanks a lot.

GOODWYN: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.