Houston police chief: ‘I’m really worried about how many bodies we’re going to find’

On the fifth day of Harvey, it’s still raining in Houston.

The hurricane-turned-tropical-storm has caused devastating, catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. A rain gauge southeast of Houston broke the state rainfall record on Tuesday morning, measuring 49.32 inches.

The city’s first responders and countless volunteers are using boats, aircraft, and dump trucks to pull people from their flooded homes. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said over 3,500 people were rescued from the water by Tuesday morning.

Officials are still focused on rescue, Turner said, not recovery. The former means saving people who are still alive, while the latter means finding people who have perished in the storm.

At least 15 deaths have been reported already; many seem to be people who were trying to escape the floodwaters in vehicles. Citing three police department officials, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that an officer died in his patrol car after he took a wrong turn and got caught in the high water.

Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said on Monday that he was concerned that the death toll will rise once the waters finally recede.

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

Hurricane Harvey Houston Texas
People wade down a flooded street, evacuating their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty

The flood levels throughout downtown Houston and the surrounding metro area have crested 10 feet in many places, covering one-story buildings and stranding tanker trailers.

National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said Monday that the floodwaters would be slow to recede, which means it will likely take days if not weeks for the streets to regain some kind of normalcy.

“The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center said over the weekend. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days.”