US & Canada

Trump hails hurricane relief efforts as he visits Texas

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Media captionDonald Trump: "As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing"

US President Donald Trump has praised the relief response to Hurricane Harvey on his second visit to flood-hit states.

"Things are working out well," he said of the efforts, as he and wife Melania met victims and volunteers in Texas.

"As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing," he added. "I think even for the country to watch and for the world to watch."

The devastating hurricane made landfall in the state a week ago.

Some residents have been allowed to return to their homes but flood waters are still rising in other areas.

Harvey has been blamed for at least 47 deaths, and about 43,000 people are currently housed in shelters.

President Trump and the first lady visited Texas earlier in the week but stayed clear of the disaster zone, saying they did not want to divert resources from rescue work.

However, the president was criticised for not meeting victims of the flooding and for focusing largely on the logistics of the government response.

Visiting Texas again on Saturday, Mr and Mrs Trump made a point of meeting flood survivors and volunteers in Houston. They took part in food distribution at a shelter, handing out packed lunches, and posed for photographs with victims when they requested it.

During a tour of a shelter, the president said: "I think people appreciate what's been done. It's been done very efficiently, very well, and that's what we want. We've very happy with the way things are going. A lot of love. There's a lot of love."

The president and his wife then travelled to Lake Charles, Louisiana, which also suffered flash floods, before flying back to Washington.

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Image caption President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted children at a centre for flood survivors in Houston

Amid the destruction, stories have been shared of people opening their homes and businesses to others, and forming human chains to save people from treacherous rising waters.

However, many are also now returning to destroyed homes without the insurance to fix them.

Experts estimate that only about 20% of those in Houston's worst hit areas have flood insurance.

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Media captionFlood victims have been returning to inspect the damage

Mr Trump has asked Congress for $7.8bn (£6bn) as an initial payment to help with recovery efforts following the flooding in both Texas and Louisiana, which has also hit production at America's main petrol and oil refining centre.

The White House said on Saturday that the president had authorised an increase in the level of federal funding available for debris removal and emergency protective measures.

Governor of Texas Greg Abbott has said the state may need more than $125bn in aid.

The president has declared Sunday a "National Day of Prayer" for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

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Administration officials say there will be further requests for funds when the full impact of Hurricane Harvey becomes known.

Harvey dumped an estimated 20 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston area.

Governor Abbott has warned that the recovery programme will be a "multi-year project".

"This is going to be a massive, massive clean-up process," he told ABC News.

The Environmental Protection Agency has warned that floodwater can contain bacteria and other contaminants from overflowing sewers. It said the biggest threat to public health was access to safe drinking water.

Authorities in flood-hit Orange County, east of Beaumont, imposed a curfew on Saturday night to give its residents "peace of mind", officials said. Looting in Houston earlier in the week led to a curfew being implemented.

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Media captionMan plays piano in flooded Texas home - footage courtesy of Greg Aylor

Thousands of homes and businesses remain without power, and many schools are expected to remain closed in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros, the city's Major League Baseball team, returned home to take on the New York Mets on Saturday. Tributes were paid to those killed ahead of the game.

The team abandoned their home stadium this week, playing three games in Florida against the Texas Rangers.

"We hope that these games can serve as a welcome distraction for our city that is going through a very difficult time," Astros president Reid Ryan said.

"We hope that we can put smiles on some faces."

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Satellite images shows central Houston

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