Donald Trump asks Congress for £6.1 billion down payment for Hurricane Harvey aid

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Donald Trump has asked politicians for a £6.1 billion payment to help with recovery efforts after devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

Officials said there would be further requests for funds from Congress when the full impact of the storm becomes clear.

The money (7.9 billion dollars) would be an initial down payment for relief and recovery efforts in the wake of the storm which has left at least 47 people dead and  tens of thousands in shelters.

It came as the US President prepared to visit Texas for a second time on Saturday.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania visiting Texas (REUTERS)

The White House said Mr Trump will meet with survivors of the storm in severely flooded Houston, which is home to 6.8 million people, before moving onto Lake Charles in Louisiana.

Harvey – one of the costliest storms ever to hit the US – reached land last weekend as a category four hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm. 

Smoke rises from a chemical plant in Crosby, near Houston, Texas (AP)

In a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney warned that failure to raise the US debt ceiling could hinder recovery efforts.

The debt ceiling of £15.37 trillion is a cap on the total amount the US government can borrow and only congress can raise that limit.

House Speaker Mr Ryan said nothing would stop a Harvey aid bill from getting through Congress, and he did not foresee any problems with it passing, despite opposition to federal aid from some Republicans following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“It’s going to take us time until we know the full scope of it,” Mr Ryan said of the storm.

He said a storm the size of Harvey was unprecedented, and because of that it “deserves and requires federal response”.

The request, expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, would add £5.7 billion (7.4 billion dollars) to rapidly dwindling Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid funds and £347 million (450 million dollars) to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

On Friday evening, thick black smoke and towering orange flames shot up once again from the flooded Houston chemical plant where highly unstable compounds blew up after losing refrigeration.

Donald Trump praises Texas’ Emergency Services in wake of Hurricane Harvey

It was the second day that flames and smoke could be seen at the Arkema plant in Crosby.

Containers of organic peroxides also exploded and caught fire on Thursday morning, sending plumes of acrid smoke into the air.

Arkema said Harvey’s floodwaters engulfed its backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep the compounds from degrading and catching fire.

The Environmental Protection Agency and local officials said an analysis of the smoke that came from the plant early on Thursday showed no reason for alarm.

No serious injuries were reported, but the authorities evacuated an area around the plant.

A week after the storm hit Texas, it has retained enough rain-making power to raise the risk of flooding as far north as Indiana.

In Houston, officials tried to safeguard parts of their devastated city by intentionally flooding others.

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.


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