Storm Harvey latest: Police officer among 18 killed as flooding continues to wreak havoc in Houston

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A police officer was among 18 people confirmed dead as flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey continued to devastate Texas in the US.

Sergeant Steve Perez, 60, who had been a police officer for 34 years, drowned as he tried to make his way to work in Houston in the early hours of Sunday. 

He spent two and a half hours driving around trying to get to his duty station and drove on an underpass, according to police chief Art Acevedo.

His body was recovered early on Tuesday.

Sergeant Steve Perez, 60, who drowned on his way to work (REUTERS)

Exhausted and drenched in filthy floodwater, volunteers and rescue workers are scrambling to save victims in the aftermath of the storm.

Officials said at least 9,000 to 10,000 people have been rescued in the Houston region. Up to 30,000 people are believed to be in need of emergency shelter and authorities are receiving more than 1,000 calls an hour for help.

On Tuesday night, the death toll rose to 18 after the Harris County, Texas, forensic office confirmed three more fatalities.

They include an 89-year-old woman, Agnes Stanley, who was found floating in floodwater in a home, and a 76-year-old woman who was found floating in floodwater near a vehicle. Her name was not released.

Devastation: floodwaters after Storm Harvey (AP)

A 45-year-old man, Travis Lynn Callihan, left his vehicle and fell into floodwaters, and was taken to hospital, where he died on Monday.

Family members and authorities have reported at least 18 deaths, although the bodies of some victims apparently swept away in the floodwaters have not yet been found.

They are feared to include six members of a family who were in a van that sank into Greens Bayou on Sunday.

Tropical Storm Harvey seen approaching Texas from space

Samuel Saldivar was the only survivor, found clinging to a tree with water up to his neck by two Harris County Sheriff’s deputies.

He was distraught and in tears, describing what had happened to the van carrying his elderly parents and his brother’s grandchildren, aged six to 16, a relative said.

Beaumont police said they had recovered the body of a woman from floodwaters on Tuesday night. Her young daughter, who was clinging to her mother, is being treated in hospital.

US President Donald Trump visited Texas on Tuesday in the wake of the devastating storm and said he wants to provide “better than ever” recovery efforts. 

Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Corpus Christi. (AFP/Getty Images)

The US leader and First Lady Melania arrived in the crisis-hit state in the late morning as officials struggled to cope with the fourth day of the deluge and refuge centres were full to capacity of homeless families.

The couple arrived in coastal town Corpus Christi for briefings on the federal government’s response to the storm, which is expected to become the worst rainstorm in US history. 

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.

Evacuee Edward Jones, 11, holds his step-brother Mickel Duane Batts at the Lakewood Church in Houston(AP)

The former businessman met with Texas governor Greg Abbott and senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn in front of members of the public who had gathered to greet him.

“What a crowd. What a turnout,” President Trump said. 

“This is historic. It’s epic what happened, but you know what, it happened in Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”

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.

Flooded cars near the Addicks Reservoir are shown as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise (AP)

It led to mass evacuations and left much of the city of Houston – home to 6.8 million people – underwater.

The tropical storm is due to make landfall again on Wednesday but it is Louisiana that is expected to bear the brunt. 

It is expected to strike the Texas-Louisiana border before continuing to batter Louisiana through the later part of the week.

A number of tornadoes are also forecast.

Residents of Louisiana’s Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and New Orleans have been warned to expect extreme weather in the coming days. 

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