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‘Harvey’ death toll rises to 35

LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana/Houston (Reuters) – Tropical Depression Harvey weakened as it moved inland over Louisiana on Thursday, leaving behind record flooding that drove tens of thousands from their homes in Texas, with the death toll rising as bodies were found in receding waters.

The storm that paralyzed Houston is predicted to be one of the most expensive natural disasters in US history and presents the administration of US President Donald Trump with massive humanitarian and rebuilding challenges.

The storm has killed at least 35 people and forced 32,000 people into shelters since coming ashore on Friday near Rockport, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico Coast as the most powerful hurricane to hit the state in half a century.

The Houston Fire Department will begin a block-by-block effort on Thursday to rescue stranded survivors and recover bodies, Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann told reporters.

On Thursday Harvey is forecast to move northeast through Louisiana into Mississippi, dumping 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of rain, the National Hurricane Center said. Flood watches and warnings extend from the Texas-Louisiana coast into Kentucky.

“Our whole city is underwater,” said Port Arthur, Texas Mayor Derrick Foreman in a social media post where he also broadcast live video of floodwaters filling his home in the city of 55,000 people, about 100 miles (160 km) east of Houston. Nearly 30 inches (75 cm) of rain hit the Port Arthur area, the National Weather Service said.

Clear skies in Houston on Wednesday brought relief to the energy hub and fourth-largest US city after five days of catastrophic downpours. The first flight out of Houston since the storm hit boarded on Wednesday evening. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he hoped the port of Houston, one of the nation’s busiest, would reopen soon.

The latest reported deaths on Wednesday included a married couple who drowned while driving through high water near Simonton, Texas, Major Chad Norvell of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.

Houston’s KHOU-TV said an infant girl was swept away after her parents got out of their pickup truck near New Waverly, Texas, and tried to carry her across rushing water. Police in Harris County, home to Houston, said 17 people remained missing.

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