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Published on : Tuesday, August 16, 2016
After days of disastrous heavy storms in southern Louisiana, rain- swollen rivers and creeks continued wreaking damage across the state. The downpour inundated neighbourhoods submerging roads and highways.
More than 20,000 people had to be rescued from the flooding this weekend, Louisiana officials said, in a waterlogged stretch from the parishes to the north and east of Baton Rouge west past the city of Lafayette. Thousands of homes have been flooded, forcing more than 10,000 people into shelters. A massive cellular network failure compounded the problem those stranded by the waters.
At least five deaths had been attributed to the flooding. Two of the victims were in vehicles that were swept off the road; one was a man who drowned after he slipped and fell into the waters during a rescue; and the fourth was a man who had been swept away on Friday night whose body had been found on Sunday morning. A fifth person died on Sunday when her car was swept into a ditch. Law enforcement officers in the worst-hit areas have told state officials they expect the death toll to climb.
On Sunday evening, President Barack Obama spoke with the Governor John Bel Edwards, to say his request for an emergency declaration had been granted for the state’s flood response and recovery efforts, a spokeswoman for the administration said.
While the drenching thunderstorms that led to the flooding have lessened in intensity and largely moved from the areas most severely affected, the disaster is hardly over. As the swollen rivers roll south and fill tributaries and backwaters, new places are expected to flood, highlighting the most difficult part of this event: that past experience has served as such a poor guide.
“The simple fact of the matter here is we’re breaking records,” Mr. Edwards said to reporters on Sunday. “And any time you break a record, the National Weather Service cannot tell you what you can expect in the way of the floodwaters: how wide they’re going to be and how deep they’re going to be.”
Even in a part of the country long used to living with high waters, this was, as Mr. Edwards said, a “historic, unprecedented flooding event.” Previous knowledge about which areas tend to go underwater and which stay dry was rendered useless.
Neighbourhoods that had never been flooded were submerged, forcing people onto the roofs of houses, trailers and cars. Four nursing homes and one parish jail had to be evacuated, and much of the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge was underwater. Boats motored down main thoroughfares in small cities like Central, passing homes with water up past the windows.