Two people have been killed as hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit Texas in more than 50 years, roared inland, knocking out power to more than 230,000 people and threatening catastrophic flooding.
The second fatality was identified as a woman who was killed as she drove through flooded streets on Houston’s west side, a Houston police officer said on Saturday.
On Friday night, an unidentified victim died in a house fire in the devastated coastal town of Rockport.
Another dozen people in the area suffered injuries like broken bones, another official said.
Harvey slammed into Texas late on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 209km/h, making it the strongest storm to hit the state since 1961. It has since lingered over Houston, dumping torrential rain in the city.
The storm ripped off roofs, snapped trees, triggered tornadoes and flash floods and cut off power to some 232,000 people, mostly in the Houston area, on Saturday night. It also largely curtailed oil and gas production in the state, prompting price hikes at the pumps.
Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday but was expected to lash Texas for days as it lumbers inland, bringing as much as 102cm of rain to some areas, according to the National Hurricane Center, which described the forecast for the state as potentially “catastrophic”.
The Weather Channel reported that rainfall rates in Houston, the fourth most populous city in the US and home to a third of the 6 million people that could be impacted by Harvey dumping as much as 15cm of rain an hour, making streets impassable.
Rockport, which took a direct hit from the storm, was left with streets flooded and strewn with power lines and debris on Saturday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was activating 1,800 members of the military to help with the statewide cleanup, while 1,000 people would conduct search-and-rescue operations.
The streets of Corpus Christi, a city of about 320,000 people, were deserted on Saturday, with billboards twisted and strong winds still blowing. City authorities asked residents to reduce use of toilets and faucets because power outages left waste water plants unable to treat sewage.
Elsewhere, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said it was forced to evacuate some 4,500 inmates from three state prisons near the Brazos River because of rising water.
The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 20 people from distressed vessels on Saturday, and was also monitoring two Carnival Corp cruise ships carrying thousands of people stranded in the US Gulf of Mexico due to the effects of the storm.