U.S. liable for home damages from flooding during 2017 hurricane: court

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of Houston homeowners near U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed reservoirs may receive compensation for flooding of their properties during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which managed two dams and the reservoirs, had planned to flood private properties in the event of inundating rainfall, Senior Judge Charles Lettow of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said in his decision.

Harvey dumped nearly 3 feet (90 cm) of water on the fourth most-populous U.S. city and flooded a third of Harris County, where the city and many of its suburbs are located along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“The government had made a calculated decision to allow for flooding these lands years before Harvey, when it designed, modified, and maintained the dams in such a way that would flood private properties during severe storms,” Lettow wrote.

The ruling, which involved 13 owners chosen as test cases, opens the door to billions of dollars in potential claims from other property owners, attorneys have said.

The homes were built in areas that had been free of major flooding around federal land in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in West Houston. The ACE called the enormous rainfall during Harvey an unforeseeable event.

Homeowners alleged the government improperly used their land to store water, calling it an unlawful taking of their properties by the government. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the federal government cannot take private property without compensating the owner.

A representative for the Army Corps of Engineers was not immediately available to answer questions about the decision.

Lettow is expected to make a decision next year on the amount of compensation the 13 homeowners can receive.

“The government intentionally flooded these private homes and businesses to save downtown Houston,” said attorney Daniel Charest of Burns Charest, co-lead class counsel for the property owners.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Greece to give millions in compensation to flood victims

Greece to give millions in compensation to flood victims

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece said on Monday it would offer emergency compensation worth millions of euros to hundreds of households affected by flash flooding west of Athens that killed at least 20 people on Nov. 15.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were extensively damaged in the coastal towns of Mandra and Nea Peramos when a torrent of mud and water smashed into the settlements, built along dry gullies on the foothills of a mountain range.

Twenty people died and two remain missing from the early-morning deluge, the worst casualty toll from flooding since 1977 when more than 30 people died.

The disaster has prompted recriminations and finger-pointing over a perceived inability of Greek authorities to act on prior warnings that areas with poor infrastructure and unlicensed construction were vulnerable to flooding. Critics also asked why flood prevention projects had been delayed.

Authorities will offer flood victims up to 5,000 euros ($5,896.50) for households and 8,000 euros for businesses, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.

It was not immediately clear how much the state had budgeted for compensation. Tzanakopoulos told Reuters the amount would come from the national budget.

That assistance would be over and above compensation residents were entitled to, comprised of 60 percent government aid and 40 percent interest-free loan, he said.

The flash flooding hit many areas of the country, including housing settlements where town planning regulations are often flouted.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas; editing by Mark Heinrich)