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Texas weather: Water shortages continue to plague storm-hit south

media caption‘He’s 92 so we wrapped him tight like a mummy’

Power is returning to Texas in the wake of a major winter storm, but some 13 million Texans are still facing difficulties accessing clean water.

With boil water advisories affecting nearly half the state, Texas’ water supply has also dropped amid damage to systems from the historic cold snap.

At least 24 people have died, and officials expect that number to rise.

Several other southern states hit by snow and ice storms this week have also reported water service outages.

Winter weather has also cut off water in the city of Jackson, Mississippi – home to around 150,000 people – as well as the largest county in Tennessee that includes the city of Memphis, with over 651,000 residents.

Across the US South, a region unaccustomed to such frigid temperatures, people whose pipes have frozen have taken to boiling snow to make water.

What is happening in Texas?

The Southwestern state’s energy grid has been overwhelmed by a surge in demand for heat as temperatures plummeted to 30-year lows, hitting 0F (-18C) earlier this week.

As of Friday, about 180,000 homes and businesses in Texas still had no electricity. Amid freezing temperatures earlier this week, as many as 3.3 million were without power.

Around 13 million people – close to half of the state’s population – have faced some disruption of water services as hundreds of water systems have been damaged by the freeze.

Austin, the state’s capital, lost 325m gallons (1.2bn litres) of water when pipes burst, the city’s water director told reporters on Thursday.

Texas’ largest city, Houston, is under a so-called “boil water notice”, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising that all water planned for consumption – even if filtered – must be boiled as it may be contaminated.

Officials there say they are working to rapidly distribute bottled water, as well as power generators, to people in need. Breweries and other local businesses have also assisted with efforts to supply drinkable water.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionBottled water has become hard to find, due to water shortages

US President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a state of emergency for Texas.

As of Friday, storm warnings are still in place across much of Texas, but temperatures will rise in the coming days, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The forecaster has also warned of dangerous travel conditions and power outages in eastern parts of the US as another winter storm system is expected to bring heavy snow, freezing rain and ice.

As the state continues to grapple with the weather crisis, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is facing a backlash after he left Houston on Wednesday for a vacation in Mexico with his family.

Mr Cruz apologised on Thursday and returned to the US after initially planning to stay through the weekend.

image copyrightReuters

image captionPeople collect bottled water from a shelter in the city of Galveston, Texas

How deadly has the storm been?

The recorded deaths in Texas include people who have died in traffic accidents, as well as some who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from running cars and generators indoors to stay warm.

In Harris County, home to Houston, there were more than 300 suspected cases of carbon monoxide poisoning during the cold snap. A local doctor described it as “a mini mass casualty event” to the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

At least four people were killed following a house fire in Houston that officials said may have been sparked by candles.

Separately, police said two men found alongside a Houston highway were believed to have died due to the cold.

An 11-year-old boy died after temperatures outside his unheated mobile trailer home fell to below freezing. Authorities are now investigating whether Cristian Pavon, who was born in Honduras and saw snow for the first time in his life the day before his death, succumbed to hypothermia on Tuesday.

Cristian’s three-year-old stepbrother, who was asleep in the same bed as him, was not injured.

Carrol Anderson, a 75-year-old Vietnam War veteran, died in his truck after he ran out of the oxygen tanks he used to breathe and went outside to get a spare.

“He shouldn’t have had to die because he couldn’t breathe because we didn’t have power,” his wife of 30 years told the Chronicle.

His death was one of four announced by officials in the Houston region on Thursday.

Two other men died in their homes and another man was found dead in a car park.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez emphasised: “The weather is not just cold, it’s deadly.”

How are you coping with the freezing conditions where you are? Tell us by emailing: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:

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