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Six members of one family were today feared drowned in Texas after trying to escape floods caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.
It is the deadliest incident so far in what is expected to be the worst rainstorm in American history, with three more days of downpours forecast.
According to witnesses, four children and their great-grandparents died when the van they were driving submerged in floodwater on Sunday.
Relatives said Manuel Saldivar, 84, his wife Belia, 81, and great-grandchildren Daisy Saldivar, six, Xavier Saldivar, eight, Dominic Saldivar, 14, Devy Saldivar, 16, were all feared dead.
The family, from Houston, was trying to get to higher ground when the van hit high floodwaters after crossing a bridge in Greens Bayou.
The driver of the vehicle, Samuel Saldivar — the children’s great-uncle —escaped before the van went under water. Relatives said he told the children inside to try to escape through the back door, but they were unable to.
Relative Virginia Saldivar said: “I’m just hoping we find the bodies.”
A spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Jason Spencer, said Mr Saldivar told them he was driving eastbound on Green River Road when rising water swamped the van.
The storm has been blamed for three confirmed deaths and paralysed most of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, with rescuers now facing a race against time to help thousands of others.
It is the fiercest hurricane to hit the US in 13 years, generating an amount of rain that would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years.
Emergency officials say the flooding is not expected to peak until tomorrow or Thursday in Houston, with another 50 inches of rain due this week.
Thousands of US National Guard troops, police officers, rescue workers and civilians have been helping to rescue the stranded, with thousands left homeless.
Regina Costilla, 48, said she and her 16-year-old son had been rescued from their home by a Good Samaritan with a boat. She was reunited with her husband and dog, left behind because they did not fit into the craft. “I’m not complaining, we’re alive,” she said.
Mr Trump, facing the biggest natural disaster since he took office in January, has now signed disaster proclamations for Texas and Louisiana, triggering federal relief efforts.
He is said to be keen to avoid the political disaster that engulfed George W Bush following his much-criticised response to Hurricane Katrina.
The president said cash for Texas and elsewhere will arrive quickly, telling flood victims: “You’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast.”
Experts are already predicting that Harvey will be the costliest storm in US history at more than £15 billion.
Senator Bernie Sanders last night told Americans not to be divided by Donald Trump — branding the President a “pathological liar” and “demagogue” — as he called for unity in the wake of flooding and devastation in Texas. The former presidential hopeful, who lost to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democrat nomination, urged the whole of America to “stand in solidarity with the people in Texas”.
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