A levee in Texas's Brazoria County has been breached, with local officials urging residents to "get out now" as Tropical Storm Harvey continues to hammer the Lone Star State.
"This morning we were advised that the Addicks Dam will have uncontrolled release rates this morning", said Steve Costello, who is with the city's office of emergency management, in a press conference.
The difficulty of controlling the release is "something we've never seen before", flood control official Jeff Lindner told reporters. However, the releases couldn't keep up with the fast rising water levels.
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According to CBS Houston, the levee in question is protecting residents from flood surge near the Brazos River near Sweeny, Texas.
Portions of Brazoria County, due south of Houston, had been under a mandatory evacuation notice since Sunday.
Thousands of people are in danger as they try to escape.
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Engineers began releasing water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs on Monday to ease the strain on the 70-year-old dams, but the releases were not enough to relieve the pressure after one of the heaviest downpours in USA history, the Army Corps of Engineers said.
Sometime Tuesday or early Wednesday, parts of the Houston region will probably break the almost 40-year-old US record for the biggest rainfall from a tropical system - 48 inches (120 centimeters) - set by Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 in Texas, meteorologists said.
"It's a true disaster", County Judge Robert Hebert said. The youngest in the family was six years old.
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Texas officials fear that the death toll from Harvey is likely to rise, the Austin American-Statesman reported.