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Mon 28 Aug 2017 10:49 AM

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Emirates cancels Houston flights as storm Harvey continues

Massive flooding unleashed by deadly monster storm Harvey saw the Houston's two main airports closed

Emirates cancels Houston flights as storm Harvey continues
A sign along I69 tells drivers that hwy 610 is closed due to high water from Hurricane Harvey on August 27 2017 in Houston Texas Harvey which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days Photo by Joe RaedleGetty Images

Emirates has cancelled its flights to and from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport today due to storm Harvey.

Massive flooding unleashed by deadly monster storm Harvey left Houston - the fourth-largest city in the United States - increasingly isolated on Sunday as its airports and highways shut down and residents were rescued from their inundated homes by boat.

The city's two main airports suspended all commercial flights and two hospitals were forced to evacuate patients. A local television station also was knocked off the air.

Dubai’s Emirates confirmed the cancellation of its flights to and from Houston via its social media channels, asking customers to contact their booking office for further updates on the journey.

At least three people have been killed so far, with reports of other fatalities still unconfirmed. As night fell, dramatic rescues - sometimes by volunteers with their own boats - were still taking place.

The National Hurricane Centre called the flooding "unprecedented" and said the storm, which crashed ashore late Friday as a huge Category 4 hurricane, would move into the Gulf before doubling back midweek, bringing even more rain.

President Donald Trump, who had said he did not want to disrupt emergency efforts with a visit, is planning to head to the disaster zone on Tuesday, the White House announced.

Rising waters from Harvey inundated roads throughout the Houston area, affecting every major freeway and hamstringing efforts to move people to safety.

"It's crazy to see the roads you're driving on every day just completely under water," Houston resident John Travis told AFP.

Overwhelmed emergency services warned residents to head for high ground or climb onto rooftops - not into attics - so they could be seen by rescue helicopters. More than 2,000 rescues had been made so far.

Rescue crews search for people in distress after Hurricane Harvey caused heavy flooding in Houston, Texas on August 27, 2017. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Emergency 911 operators in Houston received 56,000 calls in a 15-hour span - seven times more than in a usual full day.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott warned the operation was far from over, given the foreboding forecasts.

"The number of evacuees is increasing. The number in harm's way will increase also with the rain that is forecast to come," Abbott said, adding that the storm had already inflicted billions of dollars in damage.

Houston proper has a population of 2.3 million people, but the greater metropolitan area has more than six million.

The National Weather Service said more than two feet (60 centimetres) of rain fell in Houston and nearby Galveston in a 24-hour period. Another 20 inches were expected.

Flooding was expected to worsen as Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit the United States mainland since 2005, lingers over the area.

Harvey ripped off roofs, flipped mobile homes and left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark on the Gulf Coast, home to some of the country's most important oil refineries.

Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby International, the city's two airports, also stopped all commercial flights.

Thousands of National Guard troops joined local police and emergency workers to help with rescues in inundated areas of the city.

Boats also were being deployed, but more were needed -- Harris County Judge Ed Emmett appealed to residents to use their own vessels.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said there should be no illusions about the long-term impact.

"This disaster will be a landmark event," FEMA director Brock Long told CNN, adding it would take "years" to recover.

Coastal Texas is home to a large number of oil refineries and a number of major ports.

ExxonMobil said Sunday it had closed its massive Baytown refining complex - the second-largest in the country.

US authorities said about 22 percent of crude production in the Gulf of Mexico, accounting for more than 375,000 barrels a day, was shut down.

But Abbott said the oil industry was well prepared.

"They have the ability to ratchet up back up there quickly," he said on Fox News Sunday, predicting a "one- or two-week downturn."

US neighbours Mexico and Canada offered solidarity and aid.

Mexico's foreign ministry said it "has offered to provide help" to deal with Harvey, "as good neighbours should always do in trying times."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canadians "are keeping the people of Texas in our thoughts - we're ready to offer any assistance needed to help recover from this disaster."

*With additional reporting

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