Austin men help rescue flood victims in Houston

Crews are going house by house looking for people as the water finally starts to recede.

HOUSTON, TX - Days after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, first responders and volunteers are still working to evacuate flooded residents, including a group of men from Austin. 

Thomas Swindull, Jr. is one of them. He's lived in Austin for nearly 25 years but was born and raised in the Houston area.

"I kept watching it on the news and it kept bothering me and bothering me because I saw my hometown just getting destroyed," he said. 

"And then I saw Judge Emmett blast that stuff out on social media where 'we want you to come out. We need anybody's help, anybody with a boat, anybody with a truck, please help.'"

Swindull and his buddies, who call themselves The Houseboat Guys, knew they had to do something. Swindull, who is a general contractor, didn't have a boat but a friend stepped in.

"There was a nice, kind gentleman who bought us that boat right there," he said, pointing at a Jon Boat. "He paid for it, we got outfitted by our Houseboat Guys and we were on our way to Houston."

That was Sunday. Since then, the men have assisted first responders in rescuing dozens. Often times, they were the first boat to arrive and that was the case Thursday when they traveled to west Houston.

"They had an address, so we, we had the boat. They were on foot. Put the HPD men in the boat, we went into the neighborhood," said Swindull. 

The group performed rescues in the Memorial area where homes were continuing to be flooded by Buffalo Bayou.

"It has been rewarding and sad at the same time," said Swindull.

"To see the utter destruction of our hometown.I grew up here. I've been in Austin for 25 years, but this is where I was raised and to see Houston like this has been sad. And to see these people, they're so gracious, they're so open," he added.

"They're calling us heroes. There ain't nothing about me that is a hero. I want to tell you who the heroes are, the heroes are these people that have to go back into a home that's been utterly destroyed where they have lost everything that they ever worked for and they gotta go back into that home and they gotta build up. Hopefully they still got their jobs. Hopefully they're not retired. Hopefully have income and they have to rebuild. That's the hero."

Swindull and his friends plan to continue helping whoever they can and they hope the people of Austin will do the same.

"This is utter and complete catastrophic destruction. If you've got five bucks, you got some spare toiletries, put it in your church group, put it in a truck, give it to somebody, give it to the Red Cross,' he said. 

"This is real and it is sad. It's got to be the damn saddest thing I have ever seen in my entire life."

With the neighborhood in west Houston clear, The Houseboat Guys joined a convoy to head to Port Arthur to help with rescue and recovery there.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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