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“It’s been a hell of a few days,” says Andrew Cobb, whose house in Houston’s Fifth Ward was spared the brunt of Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters. His decentralized, grassroots relief effort called the “West Street Response Team” started with a simple scouting mission to a nearby flood plain across Highway 59 on Sunday.
After he and his roommates arrived at the location, they began coordinating with neighbors from the area on social media to find specific addresses of people needing rescue. They paddled more than two miles out in an inflatable kayak to make their first rescue of a mother and son, who they brought back to their own home to shelter for a few days.
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As Florida braces for Hurricane Irma, we look at conditions in Texas prisons since Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast two weeks ago with a historic downpour that lasted several days and caused massive flooding. Prisoners were not evacuated from either the federal prison or three Texas prisons in the heavily flooded city of Beaumont, east of Houston, where high water was so destructive that it disabled the city’s water supply system. State prison officials say water did not flood prisons there. But a prisoner named named Clifton Cloer, who is housed on the first floor of the Stiles Unit in Beaumont, told his wife that he stood in water up to his kneecaps during the storm and later faced the stench of backed-up toilets. We speak to Rachel Villalobos, who has been in touch with her husband who is held at the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont; Lance Lowry, the president of AFSCME Local 3807 of the Texas Correctional Employees; and Democracy Now! correspondent Renée Feltz.
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Hurricane Harvey has sparked comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans 12 years ago yesterday. The devastating storm killed more than 1,800 people and forced more than 1 million people to evacuate. Both the government and major aid agencies like the Red Cross were widely criticized for failing to respond adequately to the disaster. Instead, local residents took matters into their own hands, launching relief, recovery and mutual aid efforts such as the Common Ground Collective. For more on the Red Cross’s failures and local grassroots relief efforts, we speak with Scott Crow, author and anarchist who helped found the Common Ground Collective in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and Jonathan Katz, director of the Media and Journalism Initiative at Duke University and former Haiti correspondent for the Associated Press. He’s the author of “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster” and a new article headlined “The Red Cross Won’t Save Houston.”
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