The senior citizens who appear in a now-viral photo showing them submerged in waist-deep water in a Texas assisted-living center flooded by Hurricane Harvey over the weekend have been relocated to a nearby facility and a hospital.
Tim McIntosh, whose mother-in-law owns the facility in Dickinson, Texas, told The Associated Press Monday the National Guard rescued 20 people Sunday, about three hours after he shared on Twitter the harrowing photo of the living room of the La Vita Bella facility. The photo shows at least six senior citizens waist-deep in murky water, at least one sitting on a rolling walker, in a room with a popcorn machine, a cat and some bottles of water on a table.
“They are all doing fine,” said McIntosh, who defended facility owner, Trudy Lampson, who some accused on social media of not evacuating the facility on time. He said Lampson had made arrangements to evacuate the residents, but local authorities told her to stay put.
“The nursing home had to follow protocol because it’s a big ordeal to evacuate it,” he said. “These ladies are on wheelchairs and most of them on oxygen.”
On Monday, Harvey continued to pour rain in Houston after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues. The nation’s fourth-largest city was still largely paralyzed, and there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast.
The storm has been blamed for at least three confirmed deaths. Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes, and people could be heard pleading for help from inside. With nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.
McIntosh, of Tampa, Florida, contacted several emergency officials on behalf of Lampson until he was able to reach one in Galveston. He then tweeted the photo taken by Lampson along with the message: “La vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson Texas is almost underwater with nursing home patients.” A second tweet with the photo read: “Need help asap emergency services please RETWEET.”
He said he posted the photo to see if anyone familiar with Dickinson or the nursing home could “maybe go down the street and help them.” But the immediate response was not positive, with comments of “fake news” ”fake photo,” and “photo edited.”
The narrative turned around, he said, after a reporter with a local paper spotted the tweet, interviewed McIntosh and wrote a story about the ordeal.
“All of a sudden, it really started picking up and people actually believed it was a true event and the photo was real,” he said. “We are in Tampa, Florida, the only way we could have an impact was by trying to reach out to emergency services and trying to do social media to gain attention to the cause.”