HOUSTON – Now that the sun is finally shining and the murky, brown floodwaters are slowly receding in much of the Houston area, grim reality is setting in.
Harvey is about to release its dead.
In Texas, the official death toll surpassed 30 on Wednesday and was expected to climb as authorities investigated several other deaths to determine whether they were storm related. Officials fear that the number of fatalities will climb sharply in coming days as neighbors, emergency workers and family members search for the missing — and discover the bodies of people trapped in waterlogged homes or encased in underwater graves inside cars. And the death toll might rise even further in the recovery phase, from car crashes, carbon monoxide poisoning or other accidents during cleanup.
“Historically all estimates of deaths are wrong in the beginning,” said Craig Fugate, who was the Federal Emergency Management Agency director from 2009 until earlier this year.
Already, the nation is shocked by the horrors revealed as the storm moves out of the area and east toward Louisiana and points north.
The first confirmed fatality came early: A man in the Gulf coastal city of Rockport was killed in a fire late Friday as the storm raged ashore.
On Wednesday, officials located a submerged van that seven members of a Houston family had been traveling in when it was swept off a bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou. Samuel Saldivar told police he was trying to bring his elderly parents and his brother’s four grandchildren to safety from their flooded home on Sunday when the van he was driving was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed the bridge. He escaped through a window but the six others were trapped when the van’s partially submerged sliding door wouldn’t open.