Spotlight: Trump promises federal aid as storm, flooding ravage southern U.S. states

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-29 10:26:15|Editor: Yurou
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (Xinhua)-- U.S. President Donald Trump Monday promised swift federal funding for relief efforts as the southern states of Texas and Louisiana are battling "historic" Hurricane Harvey and seeking to recover from it.

"Every asset at my command is at the disposal of local officials," Trump told a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House.

"Recovery will be a long and difficult road, and the federal government stands ready, willing and able to assist in that effort," Trump said.

Harvey, which was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday, continued to dump historic amounts of rain on a large part of southeast Texas after making landfall late Friday along the Texas coast.

A state of emergency has been declared in over 50 counties in Texas and parts of neighboring Louisiana where wind and rain began to have impact.

While Hurricane Harvey was blamed for the deaths, catastrophic flooding has struck Houston, the country's fourth largest city.

Facing the first major natural disaster during his presidency, Trump pledged full support for residents of Texas and Louisiana hit by the "devastating and historic storm," stressing that "there's probably never been anything like this."

Trump insisted that Congress act swiftly on a multi-billion-U.S.-dollar aid package despite his feud with members of both parties in Congress.

"We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel in a very bipartisan way," Trump said.

"That would be nice. But we think you're going to have what you need and it's going to go fast."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Monday that response to Harvey is quickly drawing down balances of its 3-billion-dollar disaster fund.

Last week, the president threatened to a partial government shutdown in September if Congress doesn't provide a 1.6-billion-dollar funding he requested to begin building a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

But Trump played down concerns that his threat to shut down the government over the border wall money could hamper long-term relief effort.

"I think it has nothing to do with it," he said. "I think this is separate. This is going to go really, very, very quickly." Meanwhile, he reiterated his position that Mexico will ultimately pay for the border wall.

Scheduled to visit the impact zone in Texas on Tuesday, Trump said he would return to the state Saturday and make a stop in Louisiana, which could also face massive flooding caused by Harvey.

Trump signed major disaster declarations for both states, allowing federal resources to aid relief efforts and FEMA administrator Brock Long is coordinating the federal response.

The disaster marked a major challenge for the Trump administration with relief and rebuilding efforts expected to stretch for the years to come.

So far, the historic storm and flooding have killed at least seven people in Texas and were expected to drive over 30,000 residents out of their homes. Wall Street analysts estimated insured losses reach between 10 and 20 billion dollars.