Bodies of 6 family members recovered, bringing Harvey death toll to at least 21

PHOTO/AP

(AP) – The overall death toll from Harvey is at least 21.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says the bodies of six members of a Houston family have been recovered from a van that was swept off a Houston bridge and into a storm-ravaged bayou.

Gonzales says relatives returned to the scene Wednesday to look for signs of the van and notified authorities after spotting part of it poking above the water and seeing two bodies in the front seat.

The van was recovered from about 10 feet (3 meters) of muddy water in Green’s Bayou in northeast Houston.

Gonzalez says bodies of two adults were recovered from the front seat and the four children were found in the back. He said it appeared the van was a work truck and the back section was separated by a steel screen partition.

Samuel Saldivar told deputies he was in his brother’s van rescuing his parents and relatives from their flooded home Sunday when the van was tossed by a strong current into the bayou as it crossed a bridge. He escaped through a window but the others were trapped. The victims included his parents and their four great-grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 16.

Authorities in the Houston-area say they are investigating 17 more deaths to see whether they qualify as storm-related.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley says that the medical examiner is doing autopsies Wednesday and the agency will update its storm-related death toll in the evening.

She says authorities expect to find more bodies in homes and cars as the waters from Harvey begin to recede. The 17 bodies at the morgue do not include the bodies of six relatives found in a van in Houston on Wednesday.

The overall death toll from Harvey is at least 21.

About 10,000 additional National Guard troops from around the U.S. are being deployed to Texas as Harvey continues dumping rain on the region.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that “the worst is not over” for southeastern Texas as widespread flooding continues.

The Republican says the arrival of additional Guard members from around the country will bring the total number of deployments to about 24,000. Abbott earlier this week activated all available members of the Texas National Guard.

Abbott says the Guard has conducted more than 8,500 rescues and more than 1,400 shelter-in-place and welfare checks.

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