AUSTIN: At least 12 people, including five Army soldiers, have died in Texas due to torrential rain in the past week that has also damaged hundreds of homes and led the state to evacuate three prison facilities, officials said on Friday.
The U.S. Army and local teams were using boats, helicopters and sniffer dogs to search for four soldiers who went missing when their military vehicle overturned in a flood-swollen creek on Thursday at Fort Hood army base in central Texas.
Five other soldiers in the vehicle were killed while three more who survived were expected to be released from a hospital as early as Friday, a military official told a news conference.
“This tragedy extends well beyond Fort Hood and the outpouring of support from around the country is sincerely appreciated,” Major General John Uberti told reporters.
The vehicle overturned at a low-water crossing and military officials have not said why the convoy was training near a swollen waterway. The sprawling army post covering an area about 15 times larger than Manhattan was closing flood-hit roads when the accident took place.
There was likely one more flood-related death in the state, San Antonio police said on Friday, after recovering the body of a man caught in metal bars at a river drainage.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice began evacuating on Friday about 1,700 inmates at its Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Houston, due to flooding along the Brazos River.
It evacuated about 2,600 inmates from two other facilities this week due to flooding on the same river. Many inmates were sent to other units with available beds, it said.
The National Weather Service has placed large parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on a flash flood watch.
Parts of Texas saw record rain for May, including Brenham, about 70 miles northwest of Houston, which received 29.49 inches (74.9 cm), it said.
Heavy rains are forecast to hit Houston and eastern Texas through the weekend, likely causing more flooding, it said.
Governor Greg Abbott toured flooded areas south of Houston and said he had started the process for emergency aid.
“I saw some neighborhoods that were literally islands, completely surrounded by water,” he told reporters.
More than 160 flights have been canceled at airports in Dallas and Houston as of 4:30 p.m. (2130 GMT) on Friday due to the weather, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.