US & Canada

Houston eyewitness accounts: What is it like to be in the city?

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Media caption'I just have what's in my car' - flood-hit residents of La Grange

The words used to describe the flooding in Houston have varied. But they all suggest a disaster on a massive scale.

"Unprecedented"; "catastrophic"; "historic"; "epic" - they have all been used. But what has it been like for residents of the city, the fourth most populous in the US?

Here are some eyewitness accounts.

'We had to get the kids up and get them out'

Junaid and Nadia Iqbal do not know when they can return to their home in the memorial area of Houston after it was inundated with floodwaters.

They are new to Houston, from the mid-west, but said the sub-division where they live had not flooded for 30 years. This was one reason that they didn't think they would have to leave as heavy rains pummelled the city on Saturday evening.

But on Sunday morning, they woke up to water rushing into their garage.

"By 10 o'clock when it started rolling into the house, we were like ok, we got to scramble, get the kids up, and get them out," Junaid told the BBC.

'Catastrophic' floods rising in Houston

Within a few hours, water levels on the street jumped from about 2ft (62cm) to double that. They tried to leave, but with three kids aged under 11, facing 5ft waters was not an option and they had to turn back.

They were eventually rescued and made it to a friend's home, where they are now staying.

"I know I should be grateful that our family is safe but it's just not knowing if we're going to have a house to go back to tomorrow... it's just devastating," says Nadia.

"And it's not only us, it's our entire neighbourhood of 200 people."

'I don't think any of us accept it as a natural event'

Unlike many Houstonians, Zack McCoy (right in picture) and his wife have not had to leave their home. But their neighbours Rita and Lionel Sims (on left) are now staying with them after being flooded out.

Before these recent floods, Zack's family paid to have their house elevated by 3ft after being flooded twice in two years, and the decision has paid off.

"I don't think any of us accept it as a natural event," he told the BBC. "I don't know if it's a storm drainage issue or a Houston development issue but I've got neighbours who have lived here for over 50 years and have never flooded before and have now flooded twice in 26 months."

Lionel, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 29 years, says he will probably now pay to flood-proof his home.

'Texans tend to believe they can drive through anything'

Image copyright Steven English

Steven English, a Brit, works in Houston and says there was "no real emergency plan".

"They're relying on people to help out, it really is unprecedented," he told the BBC, as he overlooked Spotts Park (above) in central Houston.

It started with heavy rains on Saturday, but at that point, people were still going about their daily lives.

That changed on Saturday night, when the flooding began.

"The water kept rising yesterday. I couldn't go north. I went east, the roads were cut off. The water had risen into residential areas and into people's garages.

"A lot of people were wading around, taking selfies. There was a lot of camaraderie. Texans tend to believe they can drive through anything."

Police and other authorities are everywhere, he says.

"What we're waiting for is opening up the levees higher up. They reckon the water level will come back up two metres here to alleviate the water from other parts of the city."

'People have been co-operating, there's no looting.'

Image copyright Richard Martin

Richard Martin says the response from authorities in Houston has been "overwhelmingly positive, considering the immense strain the emergency response teams have been under".

He says everyone has been helping each other, and people have been co-operating with the authorities.

He lives in a third-storey apartment in Midtown, within a mile of the central business district.

"Initially, we had the outer bands of the storm, quite a bit of rain, but the roads were dry and we thought we may be past the worst of it," he said.

"Then the rain started again and didn't stop for three days.

"Houston's bayou system typically removes water but, at this rate, it's been overwhelming."

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