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Hurricane Harvey strands 20,000 at sea, delays flights  

August 29, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Thousands of cruise-ship passengers were left stranded at sea and thousands of flights were cancelled as Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm, slammed into the US coast, causing possibly “the worst disaster in Texas history”.

As unprecedented flooding hit Houston and elsewhere, cruise ships carrying many thousands of passengers detoured or delayed docking.

Carnival ships Valor, Freedom and Breeze, which had been due to arrive in the Texan port of Galveston on Saturday, were instead detoured to New Orleans. Some passengers disembarked there, others decided to wait aboard to get back to Galveston, though tomorrow is the earliest they could arrive, the New York Post reported.

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas detoured to Miami and is expected to dock in Galveston at the end of this week, four days late. The storm affected about 20,000 cruise passengers, officials said.

A Texas national guardsman carries a resident from her flooded home

Meanwhile, thousands of flights were cancelled over the weekend and both Houston’s major airports were closed. Dallas airports are operating and Dallas has announced plans to open a “mega-shelter” capable of accommodating 5000 evacuees at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre.

Aviation software site Flight Aware showed more than 1580 flights to Houston airports cancelled on Sunday morning US time (yesterday Australian time). The cancellations came on top of 1100 flights grounded on Saturday, 200 flights halted on Friday and at least 380 axed yesterday, according to USA Today. Many flights due to head to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and San Antonio International Airport were also cancelled.

An Air New Zealand flight was among those forced to divert. See: Hurricane Harvey forces Air NZ flight to divert

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an advisory at the weekend, warning Australian travellers that the effects of Hurricane Harvey “are expected to continue in the following days.

“Expect high winds, heavy rain, storm surges in coastal regions and severe flooding, including in Houston. There are currently a number of evacuation orders in place, including mandatory evacuation orders. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest information. During the hurricane season (June to November), landslides, tornados, mudslides and flooding may also occur. Anticipate disruptions to essential services and transport. Contact your tour provider or airline for latest information on disruptions and follow the instructions issued by local authorities.”

Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston

Flood levels are expected to peak on Wednesday or Thursday. An official at Galveston said it could be today or tomorrow (Wednesday) before all ships could dock.

“We’re working with the cruise lines, the Coast Guard and the pilots to see what can be done to bring the cruise ships in as quickly but as safely as possible,” the official said.

Galveston handled nearly 1.1 million cruise passengers in the first seven months of this year, an 8% increase over the same period last year. An expanded cruise terminal opened there last year.

Written by Peter Needham

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