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Hurricane Harvey’s first victim has been confirmed with Texas bracing itself for “catastrophic flooding” as the storm moves across the United States.
The most powerful storm to hit the country in 13 years arrived late on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph, and torrential rains expected for days.
It has ripped off rooves, snapped powerlines, and triggered tornadoes and flash floods, killing one person and injuring a further 14.
As it moves inland there are fears some residents are trapped in collapsed buildings while Texas utility companies said nearly 300,000 homes have been left without power.
One person died in a house fire in Rockport, Mayor Charles Wax said in a news conference on Saturday, marking the first confirmed fatality from the storm.
Home to around 10,000 people, the coastal town was directly in the path of Harvey when it came ashore and appears to be the hardest hit.
Authorities have not been able to inspect the full extent of the damage, but the streets were flooded and strewn with power lines and debris on Saturday.
Several people were taken to the county’s jail for safety after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed and 10 people were treated, authorities said.
Before the storm hit anyone staying behind had been told to write their names on their arms for identification in case of death or injury.
Another coastal town, Port Aransas, is also reported to have extensive damage. A search and rescue operation is under way at a trailer park, local media reported.
The hurricane has now weakened to a tropical storm, the US National Hurricane Centre said, but is expected to lash Texas for days, bringing as much as 40 inches of rain.
Earlier, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he would activate 1,800 members of the military to help with the statewide cleanup while 1,000 people would conduct search-and-rescue operations.
Meanwhile Houston, the fourth biggest city in the US and home to a third of the 6 million people that could be impacted by Harvey, could face up to 20 inches of rain over the coming days.
Sometime early next week forecasters said it could go back into the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, which could provide fuel to the storm, then turn back in for a potential second hit on what may be an already flooded Houston-Galveston area.
Before the storm arrived, home and business owners raced to nail plywood over windows and fill sandbags.
President Donald Trump signed a disaster proclamation as he faced his first emergency as US leader.
On Twitter he said: “At the request of the Governor of Texas, I have signed the Disaster Proclamation, which unleashes the full force of government help!”
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