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  • Toba Hellerstein

Israeli aid group rushes to help flooded Houston

A team of volunteers from an Israeli aid group were making their way to Texas on Tuesday, seeking to provide emergency assistance to relief efforts as a massive storm pummeled the city with severe flooding.

Seven members of the IsraAID non-governmental organization flew to Houston, where they will join three other members of the group who were already in the United States when Hurricane Harvey brought torrential downpours over the weekend, flooding homes and causing widespread damage. Harvey was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

IsraAID co-director Navonel Glick told The Times of Israel that among the group are disaster management experts, mental health experts, and engineers. They will focus on coordination of relief work and provide basic needs including stress relief activities and recreation for those impacted by the disaster.

“The biggest challenge is always coordination in situations like these,” Glick said.

The disaster is unfolding on an epic scale, with the nation’s fourth-largest city mostly paralyzed by the storm that has parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly two more feet (60 centimeters) of rain expected on top of the 30-plus inches (76 centimeters) in some places, authorities worried the worst might be yet to come.

Early Tuesday, Harvey’s relentless downpour continued to drench Houston and the surrounding area. Rain fell at a pace of about half an inch (one centimeter) per hour over Harris County — home to Houston — and up to two inches (five centimeters) per hour to the east.

More than three days after the storm ravaged the Texas coastline as a Category 4 hurricane, authorities have confirmed only three deaths — including a woman killed Monday when heavy rains dislodged a large oak tree onto her trailer home in the small town of Porter. But unconfirmed reports of others missing or presumed dead were growing.

“We know in these kind of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically,” Houston police Chief Art Acevedo told The Associated Press. “I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find.”

Dozens of Jewish families in Houston were either evacuated or moved to the second floors of their homes due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the local Jewish Family Service said.

Glick said the IsraAID team will work with state authorities and aid groups including those of the Jewish Federation in Houston as well as others connected to Jewish communities in the area, he said.

In the coming weeks they will also help out with clearing away the debris left behind by the storm waters.

Harvey was the fiercest hurricane to hit the US in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

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