Texas governor jets off to Asia as state is hammered by deadly Hurricane Beryl

While Texans bare the brunt of Beryl, Greg Abott is overseas on a trip seeking to strengthen economic ties in Asian countries

Amelia Neath
Tuesday 09 July 2024 13:05
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Houston roads submerged as Beryl hammers Texas

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has faced criticism for jetting off to Asia while his state is hammered by a deadly hurricane.

Beryl made landfall along the Texas coast as a category 1 Hurricane early on Monday morning, bringing with it life-threatening storm surge, damaging winds and widespread flooding.

The powerful storm, which was weaker than when it swept through the Caribbean causing mass devastation as a category 5 hurricane last week, damaged homes, cutting off power to more than two million properties and resulted in several deaths.

According to local and county officials, seven people have so far been killed as a result of the storm in Texas – four in Harris County and three in Montogomery County – while an eighth victim died in Louisiana.

While emergency responders have banded together to try to keep Texans safe, one rather prominent figure was missing.

On July 5 – while Hurricane Beryl was moving towards the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and was forecast to land in southern Texas by the weekend’s close — Abbott announced that he was heading to Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to lead an economic development mission.

Organized by the Governor’s Economic Development & Tourism Office and the Texas Economic Development Corporation, the governor left the state that day and is set to return on July 13.

A vehicle is stranded in high waters on a flooded highway in Houston, on Monday, July 8, 2024 after Hurricane Beryl ripped through the area
A vehicle is stranded in high waters on a flooded highway in Houston, on Monday, July 8, 2024 after Hurricane Beryl ripped through the area (AP)

During the nine-day trip, the governor said he would be meeting with world-class businesses and government leaders to focus on “the future of the global economy.” He was joined by Texas economic officials, five Texas legislators, and 23 Texas business and community leaders.

His announcement came a day after he said he was preparing statewide emergency response resources ahead of Beryl making landfall in the Lone Star State.

Since heading overseas, Abbott has announced a State of Texas Taiwan Office in Taipei, met with Taiwan’s president, and attended events meant to strengthen Texas’ economic partnership with South Korea.

“While I am in Taiwan, South Korea & Japan working on business deals worth billions, I remain in daily contact with Texas Division of Emergency Management & local officials to ensure preparation for Hurricane Beryl,” Abbott wrote on X on Sunday.

“Your safety is our top concern.”

An upended tree rests on Bethel Church after Hurricane Beryl moved through the area, Monday, July 8, 2024, in Van Vleck, Texas
An upended tree rests on Bethel Church after Hurricane Beryl moved through the area, Monday, July 8, 2024, in Van Vleck, Texas (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

His two X accounts over the past few days were filled with equal parts his trip to the three Asian countries, meeting with CEOs, politicians and businesses, and the impact Beryl was having back on his state over around 6,000 miles away.

On Tuesday, with just over three days remaining on his trip overseas, Abbott then posted: “Now it’s time for recovery and rebuild.”

“The Texas Division of Emergency Management has teams deployed to every area affected by Beryl,” he wrote. “They’re working with local & federal authorities to restore your community ASAP.”

Several social media users called out the governor for leaving his state in the middle of a state of emergency.

“Why is Greg Abbott in South Korea while a hurricane ravages his state and residents are without power?” one person wrote.

“Why are Texas Republicans like Greg Abbott & Ted Cruz always in the habit of abandoning their constituents in times of crisis?” another person wrote.

Abbott’s absence drew parallels to the scandal back in February 2021 when Texas Senator Ted Cruz infamously jetted off to Cancun for a family vacation during a deadly storm that killed dozens of Texans.

Some social media users brought up the incident in response to Cruz’s own comments about Beryl.

“When natural disasters strike, Texans come together to help each other out. It’s people like Mack who make Texas, Texas,” Cruz wrote on X about furniture businessman Mattress Mack, who was helping Houstonians in need of food and shelter from Beryl.

“Interesting quote from a guy who famously fled to Cancún during the worst storm in Texas history,” Lose Cruz PAC responded on X.

“While Hurricane Beryl closed in on Texas, Greg Abbott was visiting South Korea, and Ted Cruz was whale watching in Southern California. Texans deserve better,” the PAC also wrote on X, referring to a trip Cruz posted on July 4 on his X account.

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