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Phoenix search and rescue team saves 17 adults, kids from Harvey floods

(Photo: Phoenix Fire Department)

PHOENIX — A task force with the Phoenix Fire Department rescued more than a dozen victims stranded by flooding from Hurricane Harvey on Tuesday.

The Arizona Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team rescued 17 adults and children who were flooded from their homes in Katy, Texas. The team also rescued four pets during the operation.

(Photo: Phoenix Fire Department)

The task force wasn’t the only group of Arizona rescuers who have helped in Texas: Customs and Border Protection helicopter crews stationed in Tucson helped rescue about 250 people from flooding.

At least 50 Arizona rescue officials were mobilized to Texas to assist with disaster relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

Katy, Texas, is a small town that is west of Houston. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Friday night in Rockport but is now classified as a tropical storm.

Houston has bore the brunt of the storm, receiving more than 50 inches of rain through Tuesday.

According to the Weather Channel, Harvey’s flooding is one of the “worst flood disasters in U.S. history.”

Harvey death toll rises to 21

The confirmed death toll from the hurricane climbed to 21 after a woman’s body was discovered afloat in Beaumont.

The bodies of six family members, including four children, were pulled from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou, and authorities were investigating 17 more deaths to determine whether they were storm-related.

For much of the rest of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over and the water is already back within its channels in some places. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city’s two major airports would reopen late in the afternoon.

“We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down.”

Nevertheless, many thousands of homes in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city still were under water from the record-breaking deluge of 4 feet of rain and could stay that way for days or weeks.

Officials said 911 call centers in the Houston area were still getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help. The Coast Guard said it was operating 21 helicopters and more than two dozen shallow-draft boats to help in the effort.

About 10,000 more National Guard troops are being deployed to Texas, bringing the total to 24,000, Gov. Greg Abbot said.

The scale of the catastrophe in Texas began to come into sharper focus: More than 1,000 homes were destroyed and close to 50,000 damaged, and over 32,000 people were in shelters across the state, emergency officials reported.

Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the waters recede and bodies are found in cars and homes.

KTAR News’ Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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