HOUSTON (Reuters) - Five former U.S. presidents joined forces on Thursday to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Harvey, aiming to help rebuild some of the thousands of homes and businesses destroyed from Texas to Louisiana.
The presidents will launch "One America Appeal," to start collecting funds with a plea broadcast during Thursday night's National Football League season opener, the group said in a statement. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are behind the effort.
Funds raised by the appeal will be distributed to the Houston Harvey Relief Fund, which focuses on the greater Houston region, and the Rebuild Texas Fund, which will assist communities across the state. Rebuild Texas had pledges of nearly $44 million on Thursday, according to its website.
Harvey, which came ashore on Aug. 25 and became the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, has killed more than 60 people, displaced more than 1 million others and damaged some 203,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for more than 300 miles (480 km). It has caused damaged estimated as high as $180 billion.
Hurricane Harvey has stirred celebrities, including singer Beyonce, Houston Texans football player J.J. Watt and actor Sandra Bullock to raise money to help the victims.
The five former presidents said they are ready to expand their effort to help people facing Hurricane Irma, now heading for Florida after smashing a string of Caribbean islands.
(Reporting by Catherine Ngai in Houston; editing by Grant McCool)