Monday, August 15, 2016

6 Dead, 20,000 rescued in heavy flooding in Louisiana

At least six people have died and 20,000 more have been rescued in heavy flooding caused by torrential rains over the weekend in Louisiana, local authorities reported.

The "unprecedented" flooding, which spurred the U.S. government to declare the affected region a disaster area, has damaged or destroyed thousands of homes although thousands of families remain trapped in their flooded houses, as well as in their vehicles.

The death toll was raised on Sunday to six, after authorities found the bodies of three more people, including an elderly woman who died trying to save her grandson when the vehicle in which they were riding was swept away by the surging flood waters.

Local television station KALB, citing officials within the mayor's office in Rapides Parish, northwest of Baton Rouge, said that the woman managed to get the boy out of the vehicle after the waters seized it along a roadway. A bystander was able to swim to the couple and get the boy out of the water, but his grandmother could not be saved.

The torrential rains, which also affected the neighboring state of Mississippi, slackened on Sunday as authorities intensified their rescue efforts, although the high waters continue to pose a danger to people across a large part of the state.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Sunday press conference that more than 20,000 people have been rescued from homes or vehicles by emergency organizations and volunteers since the rains began.

"This is a major disaster," the governor said. "This is an ongoing event and we are still in the response mode."

The governor said that flooding records are being broken, adding that the crisis is not over and the water is still going to rise in many areas.

More than 12,000 people have been taken to shelters because their homes have been flooded.

Although the authorities have warned that it will be days before the exact death toll is known, among those confirmed dead are William Mayfield, 68, who drowned as he was trying to get out of his home in the town of Zachary, and an unidentified man whose pickup truck was swept of the road by the floodwaters in northern St. Helena Parish.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday declared the zone a disaster area, a move that allows federal resources to be used to deal with the situation.

Starting Sunday, state authorities mobilized the National Guard to participate in rescue efforts, deploying some 1,700 troops for the task.

Some vehicles with people inside remained stranded for more than 24 hours on the weekend along a flooded highway, according to Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson.

Meteorologists are forecasting that the rains will lessen starting on Monday, but authorities insist that the situation remains serious and people should not let down their guard.

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