Selena Gomez became emotional as she remembered a family that drowned last month after their van was tragically swept away in the rising floodwaters in her hometown of Houston during Hurricane Harvey.
“August 27, seven members of the Saldivar family tried to escape the rising flood waters. Their van is swept into the bayou, only Sammy Saldivar manages to survive,” Gomez, 25, said during the Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief telethon.
“I come from Grand Prairie, about 250 miles away from the Saldivar’s home.”
She continued: “Their story affected all who heard it and, no matter who we are, the differences we have suddenly did not seem to matter. Since that day, we have joined together. Neighbor helping neighbor without stopping to think about race, religion, or anything else.”
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The telethon Tuesday saw big-name stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Beyoncé and Oprah making pleas for donations and taking calls. The fundraising push has raised $14 million – and counting! – for the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Sammy’s brother, Ric, told CNN that he tried his best to maneuver through the high floodwaters to get his elderly parents and their four great-grandchildren to safety.
The deceased include Devy, 16, Dominic, 14, Xavier, 8, and 6-year-old Daisy along with Manuel, 84, and his 81-year-old wife Belia, according to the site.
Ric said that Sammy lost control of the van and the vehicle plunged into the bayou. Sammy managed to get out of his seat-belt and climbed through the driver’s side window, Ric told CNN. He yelled for the others to open the back door of the van, Ric added, but they never made it.
“He could hear the kids screaming and crying, trying to get out of the van,” Ric told CNN.
Celebrities Donate to Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts
In the week since Harvey made landfall, thousands of residents in Texas and Louisiana found refuge in shelters across the states. Floodwaters overtook entire neighborhoods, damaging at least 49,000 homes in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
In all, some 785,000 people were part of mandatory evacuations in Texas and Lousiana, and more than 200,000 homes are still without power. Officials are now allowing a portion of evacuees to return to their properties, and the process of rebuilding their homes, and their lives, begins.
At least 60 people have died as a result of the storm.