Mayor says Houston ‘open for business’ despite huge hurdles

Updated 04 September 2017

Mayor says Houston ‘open for business’ despite huge hurdles

HOUSTON: Houston’s mayor insists that America’s fourth-largest city is “open for business,” but with areas under water, people not yet in their homes, and billions in damage to repair, major disasters that Harvey created are by no means resolved.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said much of the city was hoping to get back on track after Labor Day.
“Anyone who was planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city, you can still come,” he told CBS. “We can do multiple things at the same time.”
One worry, of further explosions at a damaged chemical plant, eased after officials carried out a controlled burn Sunday evening of highly unstable compounds at the Arkema plant in Crosby. Three trailers had previously caught fire after Harvey’s floodwaters knocked out generators.
Authorities said they would keep monitoring the air, and people living within a mile and a half (2.4 kilometers) of the site outside Houston are still evacuated. But floodwaters also have inundated at least five toxic waste Superfund sites near Houston and some may be damaged, though Environmental Protection Agency officials have yet to assess the full extent of what occurred.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CNN the EPA is “working on some of them already,” but “they have restraints on their ability to check out some of them just simply because of the water.”
Turner said Houston’s drinking water hadn’t been affected by the storm, but told CBS, “We would hope that the EPA would be on the ground now to take a look at those Superfund sites, to make sure that contamination is contained and limited.”
Other issues across the region: Too much water still in houses, but no water to drink.
Utility crews went door-to-door Sunday shutting off power and warning those still in some waterlogged homes in western parts of the city that more flooding was possible — not from rain, but from releases of water from overtaxed reservoirs. Thousands of Houston dwellings were under mandatory evacuation orders, though about 300 people were thought to be refusing to leave.
People briefly returned Sunday to some homes in the area, which included brick two-story and ranch homes bordering Buffalo Bayou, to try to salvage valuables.
More than a week since the storm hit, the 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water in her parents’ home had receded just a foot (30 centimeters), said Karen Mace. She was trying to retrieve family photos from the one-story ranch her parents built and have lived in for 56 years, which backs up to Buffalo Bayou.
“It came up fast. They had to get out by canoe,” Mace said, adding they thought the home would have to be demolished.
Harvey slammed into Texas on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, but brought the worst flooding to Houston and other areas as a tropical storm. The rain totaled nearly 52 inches (1.3 meters) in some spots, and the storm is blamed for at least 44 deaths.
In other storm-ravaged neighborhoods, people worried about thefts.
Police in the southwest Bellaire neighborhood received reports of scavengers picking through water-damaged possessions and urged those cleaning up to keep anything left outside to dry closer to their homes and separate from what was considered a total loss. In the suburb of Dickinson, one homeowner used orange spray paint on a sheet of dirty plywood to warn: “Looters Will B Shot.”
Meanwhile, repairs continued on the water treatment plant in Beaumont, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) from Houston, which failed after the swollen Neches River inundated the main intake system and backup pumps halted. And outside the town of Liberty, about 45 miles (70 kilometers) from Houston, dozens of people were still cut off by the swollen Trinity River. A Texas National Guard helicopter landed at the local fire department with pallets of drinking water.
President Donald Trump has asked Congress for a $7.9 billion down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts. Abbott suggested the cost of recovery could be as much as $180 billion.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.