Houston crippled by catastrophic flood, mass evacuations ordered

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Residents use a truck to navigate through flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, US August 27, 2017. (REUTERS)
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Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, left, helps Mumtaz Kara and her husband, Tarmohamed Kara, far right, from rising waters from Tropical Storm Harvey, in the Orchard Lakes subdivision, on Aug 27, 2017. (Houston Chronicle via AP)
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This image made taken from a video shows a view of flooding on West Bellfort Avenue in Houston, on August 27, 2017. (File photo: DroneBase via AP)
Updated 28 August 2017

Houston crippled by catastrophic flood, mass evacuations ordered

HOUSTON: Tropical Storm Harvey was set to dump more rain on Houston on Monday, worsening flooding that has paralyzed the country’s fourth biggest city, forced thousands to flee and swollen rivers to levels not seen in centuries.
Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, first hit land late on Friday and has killed at least two people. It has since stayed around Texas’ Gulf of Mexico Coast where it is forecast to remain for several more days, drenching parts with a year’s worth of rain in the span of a week.
Schools, airports and office buildings in Houston, home to about 2.3 million people, were ordered shut on Monday as scores of roads turned into rivers and chest-high water filled neighborhoods in the low-lying city.
Torrential rain also hit areas more than 150 miles (240 km) away, swelling rivers upstream and causing a surge that was heading toward the Houston area.
Authorities ordered more than 50,000 people to leave parts of Fort Bend County, about 35 miles (55 km) southwest of Houston as the Brazos River was set to crest at a record high of 59 feet (18 m) this week, 14 feet above its flood stage.
Brazos County Judge Robert Hebert told reporters the forecast crest represents a high not seen in at least 800 years.
“What we’re seeing is the most devastating flood event in Houston’s recorded history,” said Steve Bowen, chief meteorologist at reinsurance firm Aon Benfield.
Total precipitation could reach 50 inches (127 cm) in some coastal areas of Texas by the end of the week, or the average rainfall for an entire year, forecasters said. Nearly 24 inches fell in a span of 24 hours in Baytown, a city home to major refineries about 30 miles east of Houston, the National Weather Service said early on Monday.
“Water started flooding our house and by last night we were unable to leave,” said Maria Davila, one of about 1,000 people in a makeshift shelter at Houston’s sprawling convention center.
US President Donald Trump plans to go to Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the storm, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.
Trump, facing the first big US natural disaster since he took office in January, signed a disaster proclamation on Friday, triggering federal relief efforts. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday 54 counties had been declared state disaster areas and he plans to add 1,000 more National Guard personnel to the flood battle.
Harvey is expected to produce an additional 15 inches to 25 inches of rain through Friday in the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.
“The storm isn’t moving much. If it doesn’t move much, it keeps throwing rain into the same area,” Steve Wistar, a senior meteorologist with AcuWeather, said in a telephone interview.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office used motorboats, airboats, Humvees and other vehicles to rescue more than 2,000 people in the greater Houston area on Sunday, a spokesman said.
The US Coast Guard and Houston police rescued hundreds more as residents brought boats to staging centers to help and helicopters were deployed to save others stranded by the floods.
The National Weather Service has issued flood watches and warnings from near San Antonio to New Orleans, an area home to more than 13 million people.
Federal authorities predicted it would take years to repair the damage caused by Harvey.
Forecasters could only draw on a few comparisons to the storm, recalling Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and killed 1,800 people in 2005.
Katrina resulted in more than $15 billion in flood insurance losses in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Flood damage in Texas from Hurricane Harvey may equal that from Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in US history, an insurance research group said on Sunday.
The Gulf is home to almost half of the nation’s refining capacity, and the reduced supply could affect gasoline supplies across the US Southeast and other parts of the country. Shutdowns extended across the coast, including Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery, the second largest US refinery.
The outages will limit the availability of US crude, gasoline and other refined products for global consumers and further push up prices, analysts said.
All Houston port facilities will be closed on Monday because of the weather threat, a port spokeswoman said.
More than 224,000 customers in the Houston area were without power on Monday morning, utilities CenterPoint Energy and AEP Texas said.
Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, one of the nation’s busiest, and William P. Hobby airport halted all commercial flights on Sunday. The airports remained closed to commercial traffic on Monday.
Jose Rengel, a 47-year-old construction worker who lives in Galveston, helped rescue efforts in Dickinson, southeast of Houston, where he saw water cresting the tops of cars.
“I am blessed that not much has happened to me, but these people lost everything. And it keeps raining,” he said.
“The water has nowhere to go.”

Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

Updated 43 sec ago

Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

  • Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi MP accused of sending proxy candidates to take her place in a public exam may lose her seat if found guilty of cheating and face criminal charges, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University (BOU), sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

A four-member investigation team at the university is probing the matter.

Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam. The clip went viral on social media.

Nusrat, who is from the ruling Awami League party and holds one of 50 parliamentary seats reserved for women, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News.

“We have already cancelled the enrolment of the alleged candidate as she committed a crime and she has been permanently expelled from the university,” Prof. M. A. Mannan, BOU vice chancellor, told Arab News.

“Our committee visited the examination centre on Tuesday. We are trying to find out how it happened repeatedly ... if Nusrat is found guilty we will file a criminal case against her.”


It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University, sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

He said the principal of the college, who was in charge of the exam hall, could not evade responsibility.

“If necessary we will go for stern action against the college principal also as it has tarnished the good will of our university.”

But locals said they were aware of the Nusrat lookalikes. 

“I have information from my cousin who was also in the exam at the same hall,” one resident told Arab News. “Although I shared the information with my close associates, we couldn’t do anything against these irregularities as it involves a member of Parliament who is holding much influence.”

The Awami League has come down hard on the lookalike allegations, with Deputy Minister of Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury saying “no mercy” would be shown.

“Our party will not take any responsibility for any misdeeds or crime committed by the individual or party members,” he told Arab News. “I have asked the university management to run the enquiry independently without any fear and if she is found guilty the university authorities will file a criminal case in this regard.” 


He added: “Cheating in public exams is a criminal offense according to the law of the country. If she is convicted by the court eventually she will lose her membership in Parliament.”

Women’s participation in Bangladesh politics is still low, even though the ruling party and opposition are led by women. The total number of women currently in Parliament is 72.

Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has led the country four times, while arch-rival Khaleda Zia has been prime minister three times.