Texas authorities have restored power statewide bringing relief after days of unprecedentedly frigid temperatures, but millions were still struggling on Saturday without safe, drinkable water.
“Due to lack of power, frozen pipes, high use at certain times, we have seen the number of systems go up that are reporting water issues,” Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told reporters during a televised briefing.
Water problems, he said, were impacting about 1.43 million residents out of a total population of around 29 million, as officials distributed fresh water and food to thousands of people.
Utility operations had returned to normal, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reported on Friday, but more than 50,000 customers were still without power as of Saturday while crews struggled to repair downed lines, poweroutages.us.
As the stalk toll of the fierce storm grew clearer across the south-central region – approximately 70 deaths have been attributed to the cold wave – US President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration for 77 of the hardest-hit Texas counties.
That declaration authorizes the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts and expedite assistance.
The drama in Texas represents Biden’s first big domestic crisis. He has said he wants to visit the state early next week but does not want to distract from relief efforts.
Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a frequent target of Republican criticism, was in Texas on Saturday lending support after raising more than $3.7 million in a few days to help Texas’s recovery.
Even with power back and temperatures rising on Saturday, multiple cities remained under orders to boil water before consuming it. Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston the fourth-largest US city has said a boil-water notice might extend until Monday.
In many locals, people lined up outside churches, community centres, or in parking lots – sometimes for hours as they waited to pick up bottled water supplies.