HOUSTON: Rescuers began a block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes Thursday, pounding on doors and shouting as they looked for anyone — alive or dead — who might have been left behind in Harvey’s fetid floodwaters, which have now damaged more than 87,000 homes and destroyed nearly 7,000 statewide.

Elsewhere, the loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant set off explosions and a fire, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply. The remnants of the storm pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky.

More than 200 firefighters, police officers and members of an urban search-and-rescue team fanned out across the Meyerland neighborhood for survivors or bodies. They yelled “Fire department!” as they pounded with closed fists on doors, peered through windows and checked with neighbors. The streets were dry but heaped with soggy furniture, carpet and wood.

“We don’t think we’re going to find any humans, but we’re prepared if we do,” said District Chief James Pennington of the Houston Fire Department.

The confirmed death toll stood at 39, though it is expected to rise. But by midday, the temporary command center in a J.C. Penney parking lot had received no reports of more bodies from the searches, which are expected to take up to two weeks.

Unlike during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans, crews used GPS devices to log the homes they checked rather than painting neon X’s on the outside. That avoided alerting potential thieves to vacant homes.

The blasts at the Arkema Inc. plant northeast of Houston also ignited a 30- to 40-foot flame and sent up a plume of acrid black smoke that stung the eyes and lungs. The blaze burned out around midday, but emergency crews held back because of the danger that eight other trailers containing the same compound could blow, too. No serious injuries were reported.

Pence pays visit

Donning blue work gloves and dispensing hugs, Vice President Mike Pence cleared storm debris and comforted Texans on Thursday, bringing a more personal touch to the hurricane zone than President Donald Trump did during his visit two days earlier.

Sleeves rolled up, Pence briefly walked door-to-door in Rockport, a small tourist town where Harvey first slammed ashore as a Category 4 hurricane. The extent of the ruin could be measured in the mounds of black garbage bags heaped outside nearly every home, and Pence — wearing jeans and cowboy boots — worked up a sweat in the 90-degree heat as he helped clear tree limbs at one boarded-up residence.

Trump is pledging $1 million in personal money to Harvey storm relief efforts.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement at a briefing Thursday. She said Trump is calling on reporters to help decide which specific organization he should give to.

The latest statewide damage surveys revealed the staggering extent of the destruction. The figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated that nearly 50,000 homes sustained minor damage and 37,000 sustained major damage. At least 6,800 homes were destroyed.

About 325,000 people have already sought federal emergency aid in the wake of Harvey. More than $57 million in individual assistance has already been paid out, FEMA officials said.

Thousands in shelters

Rescues continued apace, as did the search for shelter among people made homeless by the storm. Emergency officials reported 32,000 people in shelters across Texas.

The Harris County FEMA director said the agency was looking for ways to house people who lost their homes to Harvey. The priority is to get them into some form of temporary housing, with hotels being one option, he said.

“Right now nothing is off the table,” Tom Fargione said. “This is a tremendous disaster in terms of size and scope. I want to get thinking beyond traditional methodologies you’ve seen in the past.”

Although it has been downgraded to a tropical depression, Harvey was still expected to dump heavy rain on parts of Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Forecast totals ranged from 4 to 8 inches, with some places possibly getting up to a foot.

As the water receded in the nation’s fourth-largest city, the greatest threat of damage shifted to a region near the Texas-Louisiana state line.

Some residents in Beaumont, Texas, began to get anxious after the city of nearly 120,000 lost water service when its main pump station was overwhelmed by the swollen Neches River. Officials said they were having difficulty bringing in enough bottled water to set up distribution stations because of flooded roads.

A procession of about 10 vehicles tailed a pickup towing a trailer packed with bottled water meant for emergency workers. The truck circled a downtown Beaumont block before Letorisha Hollier hopped out of the closest car. “Give us a case!” Hollier shouted. Her persistence paid off. A firefighter handed her the water. She was the only tailgater to score a case.