At least 16 people in Texas, including four soldiers who went missing when their vehicle overturned in flood waters, have died due to torrential rains in the past week that have deluged hundreds of homes and led to prison evacuations, officials said on Friday.
The bodies of five other soldiers were found a day earlier, bringing the death toll to nine after their military vehicle flipped over in a flood-swollen creek on Thursday at Fort Hood Army post in central Texas. Three survivors were released from a hospital on Friday, Major General John Uberti told a news conference.
“This tragedy extends well beyond Fort Hood and the outpouring of support from around the country is sincerely appreciated,” he said.
The vehicle overturned at a low-water crossing, and military officials have not said why the convoy was training near a swollen waterway. The sprawling army post covering an area about 15 times larger than Manhattan was closing flood-hit roads when the accident took place.
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The military plans to release the names of those killed after it has notified their relatives, Uberti said.
One more flood-related death in the state was likely, San Antonio police said on Friday, after recovering the body of a man caught in metal bars at a river drainage.
This week’s storms are the latest in a string of torrential rains since May 2015 that have put swaths of the state under water. Nearly the entire eastern half of Texas, including Fort Hood, was under flash flood warnings or watches Friday.
Storms moving in from the Gulf of Mexico threatened to worsen flooding in places like Brazoria and Fort Bend counties, southwest of Houston, where residents near the Brazos River were forced from their homes.
The river at Richmond in Fort Bend County, where flood stage is 48 feet, was at 54.19 feet at mid-afternoon Friday, down more than a half-foot from the same time Thursday. Farther south in Rosharon in Brazoria County, the last flood gauge before the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico crept to 52.5 feet at mid-afternoon, a half-foot higher than 24 hours earlier. Flood stage there is 43 feet.
“Total terror, total terror,” Alica Matura said after she and another person were rescued Friday morning from a pickup truck swept off a Brazoria County road by swift water.
“Water was rushing in and I was freaking out, I was shaking,” Tony Conte, who was in the truck with her, told Houston television station KTRK. “It’s scary and it happens fast.”
Also Friday, a third Texas prison near the Brazos River was being evacuated because of flooding. About 1,700 inmates were being moved from the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon. Some 2,600 inmates at two nearby prisons in Brazoria County were moved out Sunday.
The National Weather Service has placed large parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on a flash flood watch.
Parts of Texas saw record rain for May, including Brenham, about 70 miles northwest of Houston, which received 29.49 inches (74.9 cm), it said.
Heavy rains are forecast to hit Houston and eastern Texas through the weekend, likely causing more flooding, it said.
Governor Greg Abbott toured flooded areas south of Houston and said he had started the process for emergency aid.
“I saw some neighborhoods that were literally islands, completely surrounded by water,” he told reporters.
More than 160 flights have been canceled at airports in Dallas and Houston as of 8 p.m. on Friday (0100 GMT) due to the weather, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.