A MAN has been hailed a hero after rescuing 50 people from homes deluged by Hurricane Harvey floods in Texas after official rescues failed to show up.
Gaelon Phillips, 23, waited for around seven to eight hours in his hometown of Port Arthur for a rescue helicopter to show up – before being told they couldn’t take his family because they were so busy.
The artist and music producer, whose Facebook page was filling up with messages from friends and neighbours begging to be rescued, then decided to take matters into his own hands.
Gaelon’s uncle and a friend came round with a boat and together they worked tirelessly all Wednesday to rescue 50 stricken people – including newborn babies, elderly people and the sick – and get them to dry land.
The 23-year-old revealed how many in his town feel like their plight was ignored while the focus was on Houston – around 110 miles away.
He told The Sun Online: “People need to know it’s not just Houston that is affected by this we all need help here too – don’t forget us.
“I want people to see what we are going through.”
Gaelon’s home began to flood at around midnight on Tuesday evening and with water rising fast he began calling all the emergency numbers he could – with no response.
Eventually he climbed on to his roof and managed flag a helicopter down at around 8am on Wednesday.
“The water was rising fast otherwise we wouldn’t have been on the roof,” he said.
“We did not know it was going to be that bad – our house got completely trashed.
“The helicopter let down a member of the coastguard on to our roof.
“I had got my mom out on the roof from the attic because I was going to tell her to go with them first.
“But the coastguard notified us that he was actually looking for one of our neighbours who had a brain aneurysm so they were obviously the priority but he said he would come back.
“I stayed on the roof to make sure they wouldn’t forget about us but by that time my uncle came around with a boat so I came down to go and rescue all the other people that needed help.
“I left my parents behind – thinking that they would be rescued by the helicopter – but they never were. So a few hours later I had to go back and rescue my own parents.”
Gaelon, who had been live-streaming his situation on Facebook, was inundated with messages from people asking for help – who could not get help from emergency services.
He said: “People were ringing 911 and other departments and getting nowhere.
“When we went out on the boat I saw more volunteer rescues than official help – I’m talking about nine to one.
“We were all thinking ‘Wow why is it taking the officials so long to respond?’
“They had said they were waiting until 6am to even come out and start rescuing people but the flooding started about 12-1am so that was a long time to wait.
“I had downloaded the Zello app where you call in and let them know you need rescuing. I was Facebook-active, Twitter-active and calling all types of numbers – the US coastal guard, the Cajun Navy – any number I could see but I couldn’t get any help until seven or eight hours later.
“Thank God that we made it out. If the rain had been as bad as what Houston got and we had to wait that long for help we probably would have died.”
Gaelon said he, his uncle and another friend worked all day picking people up in the boat and taking them to safety.
Some were too ill to even walk and had to be carried in and out of the boat.
“My uncle and I rescued a good 50 people from our neighbourhood,” he said.
“He came around about 9am and we just went until everyone in our neighbourhood was safe.
“The streets around me had it worse than I’ve seen in the whole of Port Arthur. People were messaging me their address on Facebook asking to be rescued and I tried to get to as many as I could.
“Even along the way there were people whose address we didn’t have, who needed help, so we rescued them.
“There were people of all ages from month-old infants to children to adults and the elderly.
“We even had to carry people into the boat. There was one woman who had just had some kind of surgery to her stomach and she had no feeling in her legs so we had to carry her into the boat and then carry her out of the boat to the US coastguards.
“It was a mixture of everybody. There was people from out of town – people from Beaumont came and even east Texas – rescuing too they made a tremendous impact.”
Now he says while thankfully most people are safe in Port Arthur – they still feel they are the forgotten victim of the flood.
He has urged anyone who can to help – as residents who have lost everything try to rebuild their lives.
“Most definitely I feel we have been forgotten compared to Houston,” he said.
“I didn’t want to say that at first because it just happened so I wanted to give people time enough to react but eventually I saw that nothing was happening so I took to social media to say my piece. Lots of people around here feel like no one cares about them.
“People have lost so much property. Pretty much anyone on the eastern side of town will have lost their vehicles and all of the people who had to be rescued will have damage inside their home.
“In our house our whole floor is coming up and that’s not to mention clothes and furniture that are damaged.
“I think for the most part people are safe but it’s about helping people to replace their property and rebuild and get back on their feet. You know people have just lost all the clothes they bought for their kids to start school – they are going to need a lot of help.
“We need help right now if anyone can afford to help – come down and assess the houses or do whatever they can do to help – we need them.”