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Houston Evacuees Fill Convention Center

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Harvey ravaged southeastern Texas when it hit as a Category 4 hurricane and then as a tropical storm. It has just been bringing rain - days of rain. In some areas near Houston, more than 50 inches have fallen. That breaks records, and it has caused massive flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people are now under evacuation orders. The George R. Brown Convention Center downtown is taking in a lot of those people. The Red Cross had planned for 5,000. By Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 10,000.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Yeah, our reporters at the convention center talked with people who were thankful to be in a safe, dry place. Those who got to the convention center when it first opened seemed happy with the conditions.

GREENE: Right, but as more people stream in, long lines for supplies and also unsanitary conditions are getting frustrating.

TATYANA HAWKINS: Everything you do, it's a line. You go get clothes, you go get shoes, anything you go to kind of get, you have to wait in line - least about a hour.

CHANG: Tatyana Hawkins (ph) is at the convention center with her five children. They're sleeping on the floor. And Hawkins says she hasn't gotten some of the medication she needs.

HAWKINS: I have irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure. My blood pressure been, like, way high, like, ever since I been here.

GREENE: Now, Hawkins says, she's heard that Walgreens is going to be coming in to fill prescriptions. So despite everything, she says she thinks the people running the convention center are doing a good job, given the situation.

CHANG: Taisha Kirk (ph) and Jasmine Johnson (ph) are there together too. When they decided to leave their house, they had to swim through neck-deep water to catch a boat. Now, they understand the facility is overwhelmed, but they're not feeling all that positive at the moment. They say the volunteers are really nice, but the security officers make the place feel hostile.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: Feel like you in jail. Like, they keep running out of food. I mean, there's nowhere to really take a bath, nowhere to really sleep. It's just like - it's not so good.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: You know, I understand that. And I understand that this is, you know, overwhelm. But at the end of the day, treat us better, you know? Like, you - I just - made me just want to go to my house and just sit in the water.

GREENE: Toni Valero (ph) also wants to leave the convention center, but she doesn't know where else she would go. She and her family chose not to sleep in the dormitory area. Instead, they've been camping out in the hallway.

TONI VALERO: We're out here because inside it's, like, totally filthy. There's a bunch of people just peeing on the floor. This is not sanitized for the kids. There's no way to bathe. I had to bathe my children on the sink to get, you know, cleaned up because I wasn't going to allow my kids just to sleep like that.

CHANG: In a press conference Tuesday evening, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Toyota Center is being opened as an additional shelter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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