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Donald Trump has arrived in Texas as officials struggle to cope with the fourth day of catastrophic flooding in the wake of devastating Tropical Storm Harvey.
The US President and First Lady Melania touched down on Tuesday for briefings on the federal government’s response to the deluge, which is expected to become the worst rainstorm in US history.
At least nine people, including six members of one family in Houston, are feared dead and 30,000 people are expected to seek emergency shelter. Authorities say they are still receiving more than 1,000 calls an hour for help.
It is the first major natural disaster since President Trump took office in January and many commentators say it is a chance for the leader to make a show of his administration’s emergency response.
The president and first lady Melania Trump were pictured boarding Air Force One at the White House on Tuesday morning local time ahead of briefings on relief efforts in Corpus Christi and meetings with officials in Austin.
They landed in coastal town of Corpus Christi late morning, at around 5.50pm UK time.
Category four hurricane Harvey – the fiercest to hit Texas in more than 50 years – was downgraded to a tropical storm after reaching land over the weekend.
It has led to mass evacuations and paralysed much of the city of Houston, which is home to 6.8 million people. The exact death toll is unclear and continues to climb.
Many people made jibes at Mrs Trump for her choice of “sensible shoes” after spotting her in stilettos as she left the White House, with one person suggesting: “I wouldn’t normally comment on Melania’s shoes but I’m not sure if this is what you wear to go meet people who’ve lost all of their belongings”.
Others hit back on social media, with one man saying: “Ok everyone, look. Melania Trump is capable of changing her shoes.”
When the couple landed in Corpus Christi, Melania was photographed wearing a pair of white trainers.
A spokeswoman for President Trump said he wants to be “very cautious” about making sure that his activities in Texas don’t disrupt recovery efforts.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s two stops are intended to highlight coordination at all levels of government and lay the groundwork for what is expected to be a lengthy recovery after the storm.
Earlier President Trump said that federal cash for the hit areas will arrive soon.
He said to people suffering from Hurricane Harvey and resulting flooding that “you’re going to have what you need and it’s going to go fast”.
Mr Trump added that he has spoken with members of Congress and “everybody feels for” people in the storm’s path, telling flooding victims during a press conference on Monday that “we are 100% with you”.
He added: “We will get through this. We will come out stronger and believe me we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.”
Vice president Mike Pence said in a series of radio interviews that the administration would “be there for the long haul to help rebuild Texas and all the affected areas from Hurricane Harvey”.
He estimated 500,000 Americans could be eligible for disaster assistance.
“The president has been continuously engaged in this. We’ve all been deeply concerned by the impact of this storm. We’re saddened by the loss of life and the president is anxious to come to the region.”
The adverse weather saw more than 30 inches of rain fall in some places and another 24 inches is still expected as authorities warned the worst weather could be yet to come with three more days of downpours.
The amount of rain generated by the storm would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years.
The US President signed disaster proclamations – meaning federal relief efforts – for Texas and also Louisiana, which saw flash flooding in the south west part of the state.
It comes on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which left a trail of devastation after striking coastal city New Orleans.
lthough the death toll from 2005’s Katrina is uncertain, more than 1,800 people are estimated to have died in Katrina, which was cited as a political disaster for then-US president George W. Bush
South east Louisiana and New Orleans have now been put on flash flood watch amid fears rainfall could move further east.
Between five to 10 inches of rain is expected to drop over south east Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama over the next few days.
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