An investigative crew with Mennonite Disaster Service has arrived in Texas to survey the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The delegation started out Wednesday in the community of Bastrop, Tex. east of Austin, where city officials from nearby Rockport have set up shop due to unsafe conditions in their own community. Rockport is one of the hardest hit communities along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
MDS executive director, Kevin King, offered his assessment of the situation.
"We just talked to a pastor from Houston...he says there's not been one square mile that's been spared in Houston," he said.
King added that the team is well aware of the huge scale of this record-setting weather event with Houston being the fourth-largest city in the United States. "I agree with my colleagues at the Red Cross. In my opinion this could be the most catastrophic event that we've seen in my career."
And he said that the disaster is far from over with efforts remaining in the search-and-rescue mode for the time being.
"We're even getting calls further on the Louisiana/Texas line that flood gates are starting to open, they're having to release water and compounding the problem on the Sabine River."
The neighbourhoods along this line are well-known to MDS, added King, who said this is where response crews worked following Hurricane Katrina.
Meantime, the investigative crew will remain on the ground in Texas through Sunday and assess the damage in preparation of sending in the MDS Early Response Team.
"These will be teams with front end loaders, skid steers, trailers, buckets, the brooms, the mops, the chainsaws," said King. "When those crews come in, they want work right away."
He added that the pending assessment report will allow MDS to plan wisely for the work that will need to happen when the water finally does recede.
"We've learned too many times in the past, you just can send a crew and say 'there's plenty of work, go find it', that's just not fair. So we're kind of serving as an investigative crew, talking with our churches and talking with our local partners that we've met before in the path of (Hurricanes) Katrina, Rita and Alison and many other disasters."
Part of the assessment process includes finding places for volunteers to find meaningful work, a place to sleep at night, safe drinking water and food. "Our job is a tall order," admitted King.