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The White House has announced it will ask the Congress for emergency funding to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

President Donald Trump is expected to propose an initial $5.9 billion. Texas authorities say the state might need more than $125 billion.

At least 39 people have died in the storm and its aftermath. East of Houston, floodwaters are still rising.

Visiting Texas, VP Mike Pence promised federal help to “rebuild bigger and better than ever before”.

Mike Pence said 311,000 people had registered for disaster assistance. It is not yet clear how quickly funds might reach victims.

Visiting the battered town of Rockport, Mike Pence paid tribute to the people of Texas: “The resilience of the people of Texas has been inspiring.”

He added: “The American people are with you. We are here today, we will be here tomorrow and we will be here every day until this city and this state and this region rebuild bigger and better than ever before.”

Image source Flickr

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The White House also said President Trump would donate $1 million of his own money to the relief effort.

Firefighters in Houston have been carrying out door-to-door searches for survivors and bodies in an operation that could take up to two weeks.

Rescue operations are still continuing further east, where floodwaters are still rising.

Hundreds of thousands of residents who were evacuated or chose to leave are being warned not to return home until they are told it is safe to do so.

Earlier, a senior White House aide said about 100,000 homes, not all of which were fully insured, had been affected by the storm and the flooding that accompanied it.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said its teams had rescued more than 3,800 people, and more than 90,000 had already been approved for disaster assistance.

FEMA also warned that residents were being targeted by scams. There are reports of criminals impersonating inspectors and immigration officials.

Others were receiving fraudulent calls about flood insurance claiming a premium must be paid or coverage would be lost.

Energy suppliers in southern Texas were forced to shut down refineries and close off pipelines, sending petrol prices higher across the US. Many have restarted operations, but it could take weeks before production is back to normal.

Residents returning to their homes are also facing challenges.

The Environmental Protection Agency is warning residents 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.

One chemical plant in Crosby, near Houston, caught fire on August 31, and more fires are expected in the coming days.

Chemicals stored at the flooded Arkema plant are no longer being refrigerated, making them combustible.

Residents have been evacuated from the plant in a 1.5 mile radius, and smoke was seen rising from the site on August 31.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are expected to return to Texas on September 2.

The president visited Texas earlier in the week but limited his visit to Corpus Christi, which avoided the worst of the flooding, over fears his presence could divert resources from rescue efforts.

Storm Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical depression and is expected to dissipate in Ohio on Saturday evening.

Several inches of rainfall are expected in Tennessee and Kentucky over the next two days, and flood warnings remain in effect in parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and Louisiana.

The US Congress has passed an emergency aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, days after an outcry over a delay in approval.

The $9.7 billion bill will prevent a flood insurance fund from running out of money by next week.

House Speaker John Boehner agreed to hold two votes on a total $60 billion request, after politicians from the hardest-hit areas spoke out.

The October storm flooded East Coast areas and killed at least 120 people.

It was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

Politicians from New York and New Jersey, the areas hardest-hit by Sandy, had complained that it took just 10 days for Congress to approve $50 billion in aid after Katrina.

More than 60 days have passed since Sandy made landfall on the US eastern seaboard.

Lawmakers remained angered by the delay even during debate on Friday.

“How dare you come to this floor and make people think everything is okay?” New Jersey Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell demanded of Republicans skeptical of the bill.

The House passed the measure by a 354 to 67 vote, while the US Senate approved it on Friday afternoon by unanimous consent.

The US Congress has passed an emergency aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, days after an outcry over a delay in approval

The US Congress has passed an emergency aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, days after an outcry over a delay in approval

“While we are pleased with this progress, today was just a down payment and it is now time to go even further and pass the final and more complete, clean disaster aid bill,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a joint statement.

Superstorm victims have filed about 140,000 Sandy-related flood insurance claims, but many have not been fully paid out, US emergency officials have said.

“People are waiting to be paid,” Representative Frank LoBiondo, whose district includes Atlantic City and other coastal communities, said.

“They’re sleeping in rented rooms on cots somewhere, and they’re not happy. They want to get their lives back on track, and it’s cold outside. They see no prospect of relief.”

Republican Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who ultimately voted for the bill, said Sandy-related claims with the National Flood Insurance Program “need to be paid, and paid now”.

But Jeb Hensarling said the government programme was “beyond broke” and called for a bill to “transition to a private innovative, competitive, sustainable flood insurance market”.

Congress created the federal flood insurance programme in 1968 because few private insurers cover flood damage.

The vote came after John Boehner endured pointed criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday for House leaders’ announcement the body would hold no further votes before the new Congress was sworn in.

The Senate passed a $60 billion package last week, but with the congressional term expiring on Wednesday, any Sandy-related aid legislation needed to be reintroduced.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was particularly outspoken. He said he had been repeatedly assured that the Sandy aid package would come to a vote before Thursday.

“There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me,” Chris Christie said on Tuesday, adding Congress had shown “callous indifference” towards his state.

After John Boehner met with New York and New Jersey lawmakers on Wednesday, Congressman Peter King announced a two-part vote had been agreed.

A second vote on the rest of the Sandy aid package, including longer-term projects, will be held on January 15.

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