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  India   All India  22 Sep 2019  Houston battles storm, gets ready to host PM Modi

Houston battles storm, gets ready to host PM Modi

Published : Sep 22, 2019, 4:17 am IST
Updated : Sep 22, 2019, 4:17 am IST

Vijay Gokhale also said that apart from the US President, the Indian diaspora event would also be attended by the leaders of the Democrats.

Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi
 Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi

New Delhi/Houston: As the countdown began for the much-awaited high-profile Indian diaspora event in Houston, Texas — billed as “Howdy, Modi!” and scheduled to be held on Sunday evening (IST) — to be addressed by Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi in the presence of US President Donald Trump, a tropical cyclone called Imelda wreaked havoc in the Houston area and could cast a shadow on the event. More than 900 flights were cancelled or delayed in Houston on Thursday.

PM Modi is visiting the US from September 21 to 27 during which he will also visit New York where he will have a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders and later address the UN General Assembly on September 27.

According to news agency reports from Houston, emergency crews in the Houston area took advantage of receding floodwaters to begin assessing the damage from one of the wettest tropical cyclones in US history, a storm that led to the deaths of five people and displaced hundreds from their homes.

The aftermath of tropical storm Imelda, which drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey that hit the US two years ago, was blamed for major travel headaches as motorists slogged through water-swollen streets and air travellers faced flight delays and cancellations.

Nine barges broke free of their moorings, and Interstate 10 over the San Jacinto River was closed in both directions when two of the barges struck the bridges early Friday. Nearly 123,000 vehicles normally cross the bridges each day, according to the Texas department of transportation.

The heaviest rainfall ended by Thursday night in southeast Texas, but forecasters warned that parts of northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana could see flash flooding as Imelda’s remnants shifted to the north. Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, said there had been a combination of at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations to get people to shelter as the longevity and intensity of the rain surprised even those who had been bracing for floods.

The storm also flooded parts of southwestern Louisiana.

Meanwhile, according to reports, several Pakistani, Kashmiri separatist and pro-Khalistan groups are making efforts to protest against PM Modi near the venue of the Indian diaspora event. Asked about these reports earlier, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had said that the Indian government was confident that the US authorities would take necessary action.

Mr Gokhale also said that apart from the US President, the Indian diaspora event would also be attended by the leaders of the Democrats (who are in Opposition). He had added that over 50,000 members of the Indian diaspora community would be participating in the event, making it larger than the two previous events addressed by PM Modi at the Madison Square Garden, New York, in 2014, and at San Jose in California in 2015.

The three-hour “Howdy, Modi!” event is being organised at the sprawling NRG Football Stadium, one of the largest in the US, with an impressive history of shows that have starred Beyonce, Metallica, U2. It has a retractable roof.

Indian ambassador to the US, Harsh V. Shringla, along with his team previewed the arrangements for the event at NRG Stadium early Friday, where preparations are in full swing, including over 1,500 volunteers working round the clock.

A car rally was organised on Friday at the NRG stadium, where more than 200 cars participated, fluttering flags of both India and the US to signify the friendship between the two countries. The organisers and volunteers, chanted “NaMo Again”, a slogan also embossed on their t-shirts, and said they were ready to welcome PM Modi “wholeheartedly”.

Meanwhile, Mr Modi earlier landed in the German city of Frankfurt on Saturday morning as part of a scheduled two-hour technical halt for the Air India One aircraft flying him to the US.

At a press briefing on Friday in Houston, Texas India Forum’s spokesperson Priti Dawra, “The event is a grand celebration of culture and unity of America and India, where attendees will hear Modi speak about the deepening US-India ties strengthened by the confirmations of over 3 million Indian Americans in the US and will lay out his vision of India’s continuous growth and development as he begins his second term following his historic re-election.”

Ms Dawra added that this is the first time that the “leaders of the world’s two biggest democracies” are appearing together at such an event to share their resolve to build strong partnership.

Tags: narendra modi, vijay gokhale