Up to 50in of rainfall expected as storm pours on to a city poorly prepared for inundation, prompting recommendation that residents should take to rooftops
Donald Trump will visit Texas on Tuesday, the White House said as tropical storm Harvey brought intense rainfall that threatened historic flooding in Houston, freeways turning into rivers and water rushing into homes in Americas fourth-largest city.
As coastal Texas cleaned up from Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Friday night before weakening, the storm shifted its attention inland. Amid predictions that as much as 50in of rain could fall, waters rose so high that people were advised to climb to their roofs rather than take refuge in attics, unless they had an axe or means to break through.
Heavy rains were predicted to linger for several days and the National Weather Service (NWS), issuing a flash flood emergency warning, said catastrophic flooding in the Houston metropolitan area is expected to worsen and could become historic.
More than 6.5 million people live in the region. Several deaths were reported. Early in the day Harris County sheriff Ed Gonzalez reported on Twitter that a woman and child had died in a submerged vehicle on Interstate 10. The deaths were not confirmed, because the location was unreachable. Texas governor Greg Abbott later told CBS he was not capable at this time of confirming the number of fatalities caused by the hurricane.
In an indication of just how high water was rising, officials advised residents to go on to their roofs and call for help if necessary, though 911 services were said to have been at capacity before dawn.
Have reports of people getting into attic to escape floodwater, Houston police chief Art Acevedo tweeted. Do not do so unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof.
On Sunday afternoon, the evacuation of the citys Ben Taub hospital was delayed as the building was surrounded by waist-deep water. The George R Brown Convention Center was prepared as a shelter, with the first of a planned 1,000 people arriving.
At a press conference, Abbott said 3,000 national guard and state guard troops had been activated, and 500 vehicles and 14 aircraft put into service. There were 250 highway closures around Texas, he said.
Among hundreds of rescues, police evacuated two apartment complexes in the Greenspoint neighbourhood, saving more than 50 children. The US coast guard reported more than 300 requests for search and rescue in the Houston area. Five coast guard helicopters were working and New Orleans was asked to send more.