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Navy sends ships as Harvey gets downgraded

Earlier in the day, the entire city was under water, Freeman said. There were about 150 boats in the city and the Coast Guard was assisting in rescues via helicopter.

The Port Arthur Police Department asked for help on Facebook. "Rescue boats welcome in Port Arthur to assist emergency personnel," the department posted.

Some 14,000 members of the Texas National Guard had been deployed, and the total number was expected to climb to 24,000, including members from other states, using some 600 vehicles, 500 boats and 100 helicopters.

About 32,000 people were in more than 230 shelters, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA was beginning to move families out of shelters and into transitional housing at hotels.

The Toyota Center arena in central Houston opened Tuesday to house additional flood victims, while 10,000 people already were staying at the George R Brown Convention Center, double the building's capacity.

Some 210,000 households had registered with FEMA for financial assistance, and 37 million dollars already had been provided, officials said.

The number one priority was rescuing survivors, with thousands evacuated Tuesday amid an average of 1,000 calls for help per hour, US Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft said.

Harvey was set to continue moving north-east, with the storm expected to dissipate over Tennessee later in the week.

The storm had dumped 125 centimetres of rain outside Houston within a 58-hour period starting Friday, the National Weather Service said, a record amount of rainfall for a cyclonic storm in the continental United States.

US President Donald Trump vowed ongoing support to storm victims.

"We are here with you today, we are with you tomorrow and we are here with you every step of the way," Trump said Wednesday as he appeared in Missouri, where he had travelled to discuss his tax plans.

Trump said the federal disaster response would be "big and unprecedented" and praised the first responders after meeting a day earlier with officials in Texas.

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