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September 20, 2017

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Trump pledges 'every asset at my command' to aid to storm victims

US President Donald Trump on Monday pledged the full support of the federal government as Texas and Louisiana continue to battle flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

"To the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are 100 per cent with you," Trump said at a White House news conference. "Every asset of my command is at the disposal of local officials."

The president, who was criticized for missing an opportunity to unite the country after racially charged violence August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, said the people of Texas were showing resilience, charity and strength.

"Tragic times such as these bring out the best in America's character," he said, reading from a script. "We are one American family. We hurt together, we struggle together and, believe me, we endure together. We are one family."

Harvey, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, continues to dump massive amounts of rain on a large portion of south-east Texas. States of emergency have been declared in 54 counties in Texas and parts of neighbouring Louisiana, where the storm's wind and rain were already being felt.

Trump said the main concern now was the safety and security of those still in harm's way, including the first responders.

Emergency management officials backed by members of the state National Guard and thousands of federal officials said they were working to bring relief to people flooded out of their homes.

The governor of Texas has deployed all 12,000 available members of the Texas National Guard to help with search and rescue, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent 8,500 federal staff members to Texas and Louisiana, where the storm is heading.

FEMA chief Brock Long said the number of people sent by FEMA includes about 1,100 actively performing search and rescue backed by US Coast Guard helicopters and officials with Customs and Border Protection.

Long and other officials who spoke at a news conference did not provide an updated death toll. Earlier reports said three people had died, and the number was expected to increase.

Long said trucks carrying 2 million meals and 2 million litres of water were already arriving in communities north of Rockport, a Gulf coast town that took the brunt of the storm when it came ashore Friday as a category 4 hurricane.

The city of Houston is among the worst hit. Mayor Sylvester Turner said said more than 2,000 people had been rescued and calls were still coming in from people stuck or on top of in their flooded homes.

Some 5,500 people are inside shelters in the Texas city of more than 2 million people, and more than 30,000 people are expected to be placed in temporary shelters.

Harvey's slow and erratic movement were contributing to the catastrophic flooding. The eye of the storm is expected to remain just offshore through Tuesday night.

The National Hurricane Center said a record-breaking storm total of 1.27 centimetres of rainfalls was possible in the coming days.

Trump plans to visit Texas on Tuesday and may also go to Louisiana on Saturday, he said.

"We will get through this, we will come out stronger," Trump said during the news conference. "And believe me, we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before. The rebuilding will begin. And in the end, it will be something very special."

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