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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Joe Biden declares Texas a catastrophic zone due to cold wave

The death toll in this state continues to rise and now reaches fifty, although the exact figure is unknown
“On Monday, the thermal sensation inside the house was three degrees above zero; in the street, due to the humidity of the environment, it was 17 below zero. When I was driving to buy bottles of water at a shopping center I found myself, next to A stoplight off, to a ‘homeless’ asking. I gave him money and insisted that he go to a shelter, but he told me that he and his wife were going to stay in his truck. They had to spend a very hard night. “

This is how Alejandro Ibáñez, a Spaniard living in Houston, described the situation in that city to EL MUNDO on Thursday. His story summarizes the catastrophe suffered by Texas, the largest state in the US – larger than Spain and Portugal together – and the second most populated in the country – 29 million inhabitants – due to the Arctic cold wave that has devastated it. The Houston catastrophe also has a sarcastic detail: that city is the oil capital of the United States. Texas, which, if it were independent, would be, in its own right, an OPEC country for its crude oil and natural gas production, has run out of power and clean water.

Ibáñez does not know what happened to the man with the traffic light (a traffic light that, like all those in Houston, was without light for four days). But nobody knows, either, how many people have died in the state of Texas from the cold. On Friday, the Washington Post had registered 47 deaths. However, the Houston Chronicle newspaper estimated that two dozen people had died in Houston alone.

And the number continues to rise. The Austin-based nonprofit news website Texas Tribune fears that the total number of deaths will reach several hundred and take weeks or months to become known. It is a situation similar to the one that occurred during Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, and with which there is no official death toll, but rather different estimates ranging from 900 to 2,500.

The ‘homeless’, children, citizens who suffer from chronic diseases and need to attend medical centers regularly for treatment and the elderly have been the main victims of the catastrophe. In Houston, for example, the power outages were such that the traffic lights were out of operation for four days. Added to this was the cut off of the drinking water service. For most of this week, millions of homes in Texas have had neither water nor electricity.

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, declared Texas a catastrophic zone, which means that the state will receive aid from Washington. It is an ironic situation, since Texas politicians regularly threaten to declare independence to, precisely, get rid of the interference of the Government of Washington. Texas was also the state that, in an act declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, tried to challenge in court the cleanup of the presidential elections in Pennsylvania, one of the territories that gave Joe Biden the victory.

The paradox of the situation is finally closed with the fact that the crisis has been largely self-inflicted, since Texas is, by its own decision, isolated from the rest of the US electricity grid, so it has not been able to import energy from other states, unlike neighboring Oklahoma, where the storm also hit.

But the storm may have political consequences. Republican Senator Ted Cruz has seen his expectations of winning the US presidency in 2024 ruined after he was caught fleeing the cold with his family to the sunny Mexican city of Cancun, where the temperature is 29 degrees. . Added to this is the tremendous campaign launched by Democrat Beto O’Rourke – who was on the verge of taking the seat from Cruz in 2018 – who has contacted 700,000 people in Texas to offer them help and information. O’Rourke, who can run for governor or, again, the Senate, has thus become one of the winners of the tragedy.

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