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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: Search and rescue key focus in Harvey response

TX gov Harvey update

Emergency services are focusing on search and rescue operations, as sheets of rain from Tropical Storm Harvey continue to pound the Texas coastline, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference Saturday.

Abbott said state task forces have already conducted several search and rescue operations, which are moving forward in spite of sustained winds and torrential rain. Resources are currently focused on supporting evacuees from the Corpus Christi area in particular, although that focus area is expanding, Abbott said. Roughly 1,000 personnel in Texas are assigned to search and rescue assistance. As of early Saturday afternoon, no fatalities had been confirmed, Abbott said.

Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 storm to a tropical storm, but slow and heavy rain is already causing flooding problems. Abbott said the region between Corpus Christi and Houston can expect an additional 20-30 inches of rain in the next few days, in addition to the 16-20 inches that area has already received, as "dramatic flooding" continues to be the greatest danger facing the state. 

The state had originally included 30 counties in its emergency disaster declaration, but Abbott said he has included an additional 20 counties in that list. President Trump late Friday approved the declaration request, which frees up federal resources and allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to respond. 

Hundreds members of Texas' military division have also been activated, Abbott said. 

Abbott said roughly 338,000 power outages have been reported, and it may be days before power is restored, as crews have to wait until winds are below a certain level to safely address the problem.

The Texas governor said he has waived the hotel occupancy tax for first responders and evacuees across the state, and state park fees are also waived for evacuees. The American Red Cross has 21 shelters open serving about 1,450 people, and 42 more Red Cross shelters are on standby if needed. Other charities are also providing shelter space, Abbott said. Multiple state agencies are in the process of delivering water, ice and food to areas in need, and the state is setting up stages areas for supplies, Abbott said. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on the state's response to Hurricane Harvey

The governor said he spoke with a number of evacuees who had fled the coastline.

"You could sense a sense of relief on their part, that they were out of the way of what was an increasingly threatening storm," Abbott said. 

CBS News' Stefan Becket and Jack Turman contributed to this report.

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