News World

HARVEY

The face of Houston's horror ... and heroism

By Brad Hunter, Toronto Sun

Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, drowned in his cruiser in the raging floodwaters of the epic storm that has killed at least 15 people and caused billions in damages.

Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, drowned in his cruiser in the raging floodwaters of the epic storm that has killed at least 15 people and caused billions in damages.

Officer Steve Perez wanted to do his duty.

That courage and sense of honour tragically made him the latest victim of Hurricane Harvey.

The 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department drowned in his cruiser in the raging floodwaters of the epic storm that has killed at least 15 people and caused billions in damages.

And as tropical rains continued to pound the Texan city, the worst may be far from over with at least another 30 centimetres expected over the next 24 hours.

Along with more bodies.

With tears streaming down his face, Houston police chief Art Acevedo told how his fallen comrade had gone against his wife’s wishes.

Days shy of his 61st birthday, Perez was driving to work Sunday morning when his cruiser became trapped in high water.

While rescuers found his body Sunday night, they couldn’t get at him until Monday when a dive team and members of the “Cajun Navy” recovered it.

“We could not put more officers at risk for what we knew in our hearts would be a recovery mission,” Acevedo said, calling Perez “a sweet, gentle public servant.”

Meanwhile, Houston cops and firefighters have been pushed to the breaking point as the storm is showing no signs of slowing down — yet.

However, the National Weather Service said the now Tropical Storm Harvey will batter southwestern Louisiana before it dies at sea.

Hailing his personnel, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said everyone is giving an “extra effort.”

“Sometimes you find a way to make it happen, or you die in trying. Sgt. Perez lost his life because he tried to make it happen, he tried to get at his post ... that’s the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Meanwhile, experts say the city’s depression-era water system is obsolete — and dangerous.

As one of America’s fastest growing cities, the system has not kept up with the pace of growth. But boffins concede little could have contained the ferocious Harvey because of the area’s pancake-flat coastal plain that drains into the Gulf of Mexico.

During the dark days in Texas, the heroic actions of cops like Perez contrasted wildly with celebrity preacher Joel Osteen.

Osteen initially refused to open up his 16,000-seat religious arena to the woeful and waterlogged. Social media outrage changed his mind.

— with files from The Associated Press