Biden Approves Texas Disaster Declaration After Deadly Freeze By Reuters

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By Callaghan O’Hare HOUSTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas on Saturday as the state grapples with the aftermath of a winter storm that killed at least two dozen people and led to widespread blackouts and shortages. of water. Millions of residents in the United States’ largest oil and gas producer have had to deal with days of power outages, and nearly half of all Texans still suffer from interruptions in their water service. Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which covers Houston, said Friday that authorities reported 10 deaths from hypothermia. The Biden administration’s action makes federal funds available to affected people, including assistance for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans. Biden is also considering a trip to Texas to study the federal response to the first new crisis that unfolded since he took office a month ago. The White House is working closely with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who initially did not acknowledge Biden’s victory in the November election. Abbott thanked the president for approving the major disaster declaration and said in a statement that it was “an important first step.” But, he added, individual assistance had only been approved for 77 counties, not all of the state’s 254 counties as he had applied for. FROM RESPONSE TO RECOVERY With all of the state’s power plants back online, millions of Texans were finally able to turn on their lights and heat their homes again. However, the outages persisted and more than 78,000 homes remained without power as of Saturday morning. With the weather improving and the expectation that temperatures will return to normal in the coming days, the main concern has shifted from energy to water. More than 1,200 public water systems have reported outages, many of which have led to boil-water advisories, said Gary Rasp, spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He said 14.3 million people in 190 counties were affected as of Saturday morning. “I would rather have been through a hurricane than this freeze,” Jay Farrell, a plumber, told Reuters at his home in Houston. Farrell said he hasn’t been able to shower and has been using buckets of water from his hot tub to flush the toilet for days. As Texas shivered in the dark during the freeze, he said the temperature in his home dropped to 22 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5.5 degrees Celsius). In Houston, officials took a more optimistic tone after power was restored to most residents and mass distribution of bottled water began. “Things are looking up … We are going in the direction of normality,” Hidalgo said in a video Friday. “Right now it‘s about moving from response to recovery.”

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