About 30 000 people have been rescued, including a 78-year-old woman who spent a night in a tree, while the death toll rose to seven as epic flooding continued unabated in Louisiana on Monday and early yesterday.
Thousands have been evacuated to emergency shelters after waterways in the southern part of the state overflowed their banks. Louisiana State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson told CNN that 14 000 people were staying in shelters, mostly in the state capital Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
Some places have received more than 50cm of rain since last Thursday, submerging vast swathes of southern Louisiana in muddy waters.
“Our state is currently experiencing a historic flooding event that is breaking every record,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said late on Monday. “This event is ongoing, it is not over. We do not know when the floodwaters will recede, and they will continue to rise in some areas.”
Police said the Louisiana National Guard was assisting evacuees in the massive shelters, which included a Baton Rouge film studio complex and an entertainment centre.
A helicopter survey late Monday by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office showed large areas of submerged land. Muddy water covered roads, forested areas, cars and even the better part of some dwellings.
Seven people were confirmed dead, Edmonson said, noting the toll could rise in coming days.
“Once the water recedes, all these homes that are completely covered with water, we have to go to every single one of those and go inside of them and check for anybody who might be in those areas,” he said.
Some 40 000 homes and business were reported without power. The White House on Sunday declared four parishes major disaster areas and it was expected that more would be added on a rolling basis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) continued to issue flood warnings through to early yesterday. The Amite River, the source of flooding for many areas, had risen 4.3m above flood level in one reading, besting a previous record flood in April 1983, the NWS said.
Officials reported that hundreds of roads, mostly in the southern parts of the state, remained closed. The American Red Cross said it was responding to the disaster, which it called the worst since Superstorm Sandy flooded coastal areas in New York and New Jersey in 2012.
Many parishes in Louisiana were collecting donations for flood victims.
“We ’ve literally had hundreds of people who’ve brought boats in and have wanted to help,” Edmonson said.