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Electricity returns to Texas, but clean water is lacking

Many of the millions of Texans who have been without power for days since a winter storm unhinged their power grid have got it back, but the crisis is far from over in parts of the southern state where people lack clean water.

Nearly 185,000 homes and businesses were still dark as of Friday morning according to the website poweroutage.us, compared with about 3 million two days ago. Authorities said there could still be limited selective blackouts.

More than 335,000 people from Virginia to Louisiana were without power and 71,000 in Oregon suffered a week-long power outage after a massive ice and snow storm.

Ice and snow drifted into the Appalachians, northern Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania and the northeast. The weather killed at least 57 people, including a 17-year-old girl who fell into a frozen lake in Oklahoma on Thursday, according to the Oklahoma state highway patrol.

Many people perished when trying to keep warm. In Abilene, West Texas, six people died, including a 60-year-old man who died of cold in his bed. In the Houston area, a family died in their car suffocated by carbon monoxide.

Power companies from Minnesota to Texas used staggered blackouts to ease pressure on their networks, but the blackouts that still persisted in Texas were due to bad weather, according to the state’s network management agency ERCOT.

The acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA for its acronym in English), Bob Fenton, said his teams were in Texas to distribute fuel, water, blankets and other essential items.

Gov. Greg Abbott cautioned that the emergency has yet to be overcome as temperatures remain frigid, a winter storm threatens the southern state and there may be disruptions in the food supply chain.

To make matters worse, the weather disrupted drinking water systems. Authorities ordered 7 million people – a quarter of the population of the second-largest state – to boil tap water before drinking it in view of the damage to infrastructure and plumbing. In Abilene, a man died who was unable to receive medical treatment due to lack of water pressure.

President Joe Biden said he called Abbott Thursday night to offer additional support from the federal government.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said residents of America’s fourth largest city will likely have to boil running water until Sunday or Monday.