Five ex-US presidents join forces to support Harvey victims

HOUSTON, Sept 7 (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.

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Five presidents attend dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
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Five presidents attend dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: In this handout provided by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former U.S. presidents (L-R) Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and President Barak Obama and former first ladies (L-R) Rosalyn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and first lady Michelle Obama pose at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Paul Morse/George W. Bush Presidential Center via Getty Images)
(From L - R) U.S. President Barack Obama walks alongside former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former President George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton (L) and Jimmy Carter (2nd R) are pictured with former first ladies Hillary Clinton (2nd L) and Rosalynn Carter during the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. U.S President Barack Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks alongside former presidents George W. Bush (C) and Bill Clinton, as George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter (obscured) follow behind as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (L) poses with former first ladies (2nd L-R) Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
(L-R) Former first lady Laura Bush, President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Jimmy Carter, arrive at the dedication for the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) stands alongside (L-R) former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, April 25, 2013. Obama is in Texas to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president George W. Bush in what could serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle against terrorism, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Boston Marathon bombings. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE: ALSO SEE GM1E97T1JAR01
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (L) poses with former first ladies (2nd L-R) Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter as they attend the dedication ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama stands with former presidents, from second from left, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: (L-R) Former President Jimmy Carter walks back to his seat after his speech as former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton and former first lady Rosalynn Carter applaud during the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013. The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system. (Photo by Tony Gutierrez-Pool/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: (Left to Right) First Lady Michelle Obama, former first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former first lady Barbara Bush and former first lady Rosalynn Carter are introduced during the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013. The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: (L-R) First lady Michelle Obama, U.S. President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013. The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: (L-R) First lady Michelle Obama, U.S. President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013. The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. Seated behind the President L-R are: Michelle Obama, former First Lady Barbara Bush, former presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) and former Presidents (L-R) George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter arrive on stage for the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication ceremony in Dallas, Texas, on April 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25: (L-R) First lady Michelle Obama, U.S. President Barack Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady Hillary Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million digital photographs, will be opened to the public on May 1, 2013. The library is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives and Records Administration system. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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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)

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