Houston flooding evacuees overwhelm main evacuation shelter

Last Updated Aug 29, 2017 3:22 PM EDT

Houston's main shelter for flood evacuees is already drastically overcrowded, with more than 9,000 evacuees sleeping on cots and on the floor on Monday night -- almost double the official capacity of the shelter -- in the wake of Harvey.  When "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell went inside the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, the city's main evacuation center, she met people who had grabbed sleep anywhere they could, on chairs, on cots, on heaps of baggage and on the floor due to a lack of beds.

The official capacity of the venue is 5,000 people, but officials told CBS News that 9,021 people stayed there Monday night, many of them without beds. There were 1,200 beds when CBS News visited the convention center Sunday, reports O'Donnell. The Red Cross was trying to obtain 5,000 sleeping cots -- a significant number, but still far short of what is required. The number of evacuees is certain to rise further, with the town of Dickinson issuing a mandatory evacuation order on Monday afternoon. Officials from Brazoria County, to the south and south-west of Houston city center, also told residents near Columbia Lakes to leave immediately on Tuesday morning because a levee had been breached.

Many of the evacuees already in the convention center are grateful that they are in a dry place with some food, but shared their frustration with the level of accommodation and the preparations made.

"I slept in a chair," one evacuee named Michelle told O'Donnell. Her three children slept on cardboard on the floor, she said.

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Norah O'Donnell spoke with Houston flooding evacuees inside the George R. Brown Convention Center. 

CBS News

"This is disturbing. Why didn't they have enough cots? They've not opened up more shelters to put cots. No blankets. They didn't even have enough blankets," Michelle said, adding that she was given one blanket for her and the three kids. Some of her family members used towels as blankets.

"Our city is better than this," Michelle said. "Way better -- we can take in the houses of people from other disaster areas, we should be treated the same way. We live here. This is our home."

Michelle said she doesn't think the city was prepared. "And they still not," she said. Even a "little baby" was on the floor next to them, she described.

Rescue crews are working virtually nonstop in the area, pulling out stranded people and taking them to safety. The confirmed death toll from the hurricane is three, but that is likely to rise. The official rainfall totals are staggering: 48 inches in Friendswood, southeast of Houston; 42 inches in Baytown; 36 inches in Kinwood; and nearly 33 inches in downtown Houston.