Texas governor appeals for aid for Harvey recovery

HOUSTON, USA – The governor of Texas said Sunday, September 3, the "long haul" of recovery from Hurricane Harvey was just beginning, appealing to Congress to provide tens of billions of dollars needed for reconstruction.

In the nation's 4th largest city of Houston, which was devastated by record-setting rainfall, many residents whose homes had flooded returned over the weekend to begin removing soggy drywall, soaked carpets, and ruined possessions.

A week of flooding had damaged 40,000 to 50,000 homes in Houston and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to emergency shelters.

"The rebuilding process, this is where the long haul begins," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Fox News Sunday. "This is where we come to the part where Congress plays a role."

The White House has asked Congress for $7.85 billion for Harvey-related "response and initial recovery efforts," calling it a "downpayment" on the long-term cost of recovering from the record flooding. In the end, Abbott said, recovery will cost "well over $120 billion, probably $150 billion to $180 billion."

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has said the administration will later seek an additional $6.7 billion for disaster relief. (READ: Miley Cyrus is latest celebrity to donate to Harvey relief)

Harvey was blamed for at least 42 deaths, with the Houston Chronicle saying the toll of people who died or were feared dead was more than 50.

Yet Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged visitors to keep their travel plans to Houston, which he said was now 95% dry.

"I want to be very clear. Yes, it was a very serious storm, historic, unprecedented, but the city of Houston is open for business. 

"And so if you have a conference, convention, concert, any of those things that were planning to come to this city we are still ready to welcome you," Turner said, adding that city employees will be back at work on Tuesday, September 5, following the US Labor Day holiday on Monday, September 4.

Houston is not only a regional hub, but also a center of the US petroleum industry. The surrounding Gulf Coast area is home to about a third of American refining capacity.

"That is a can-do city, we're not going to engage in a pity party," Turner said. He appeared Sunday on both CBS and NBC.

"We are getting back on our feet and we are open for business. We do want people to continue to come to the city."

While Houston was getting back to a semblance of normality, floodwaters in other hard-hit cities nearby such as Rockport, Beaumont, and Port Arthur were slower to recede.

Meanwhile, America on Sunday marked a "National Day of Prayer" for victims of the storm.

In Washington, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended morning services at historic St John's Church, a short distance from the White House. – Rappler.com