WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump toured flood-ravaged Texas on Tuesday in a show of support amid Harvey’s deadly devastation, proudly presenting the state’s flag to a cheering crowd in Corpus Christi.
“Texas can handle anything,” he told the hundreds assembled outside a firehouse where he was briefed by federal and state officials on ongoing rescue efforts and the long road to recovery.
“I just want to say we love you, you are special, we’re here to take care of you, it’s going well,” he told supporters.
He added of the storm’s scale: “I will tell you this is historic, it’s epic, what happened. But you know what? It happened to Texas, and Texas can handle anything.”
Trump has been monitoring Harvey’s progress since early last week, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
He won’t visit the more heavily damaged sections of Texas so as not to distract from rescue operations, she said.
The storm-battered state saw record levels of rainfall and thousands in Houston sought shelter in a convention center.
Dramatic images circulated of first-responders and good Samaritans in boats plucking stranded residents from their flooded homes.
The climbing death toll included a Houston police officer trapped by floodwater in his patrol car.
The president made stops in Corpus Christi and Austin, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Housing Secretary Ben Carson and acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, among others.
Harvey is the first major natural disaster Trump has confronted as president. Trump is expected to return Saturday to Texas and visit Louisiana, also in the storm’s path.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott commended Trump.
“Every step of the way — as the hurricane came across the shore, and as the flooding began in Houston, Texas — the president and his Cabinet remained in constant contact with me and my staff,” Abbott, a Republican, said in Corpus Christi. “And they all had one thing to say: ‘Texas, what do you need? How can we help? You can count on us.’”
Trump, wearing a white baseball cap emblazoned “USA,” in turn praised the team effort.
“And we won’t say congratulations,” he said. “We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to congratulate. We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.”
Long noted that recovery will be a “slow process” and emergency rescue efforts still underway.
“The event, unfortunately, to the north of us is not over. We’re still in a life-saving, life-sustaining mission,” he said.
In Austin, Trump promised federal emergency aid will soon be on its way. He predicted the relief will be costly.
“Probably there has never been anything so expensive in our country’s history,” Trump said. “We’ve never done anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we’ve witnessed with Harvey. It sounds like such an innocent name . . . but it’s not innocent.”
In a nod to Texas’ GOP senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and some Congress members in attendance, the president said, “We’ll be working with these characters over there.”
Trump’s re-election campaign committee earlier Tuesday issued a call for supporters to make charitable donations to the American Red Cross, The United Way and other organizations to aid Harvey victims.