About 86,500 sought federal aid after Louisiana floods
BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – Some 86,500 people have filed for federal aid after deadly flooding hit Louisiana in the past several days and damaged some 40,000 homes, Governor John Bel Edwards told a news conference on Thursday. He said the death toll from the flooding stood at 13 people and about 30,000 people have been rescued from the floods. Rainfall hit historic levels in some parts of the state.
“In Louisiana, taking care of one another is a way of life. We are on our way from response to recovery,” Edwards said. Waters have receded in many deluged areas with thousands of people returning to flood-hit homes to rip out soaked carpet and dump water-logged mattresses. Many residents said they lost almost everything they owned. As of Thursday, about 4,000 people were in shelters. Rains that started last Thursday have dumped more than 2-1/2 feet (0.76 meters) of water on parts of Louisiana. Although water levels are generally dropping in Louisiana, some areas around Lafayette, in the southwestern part of the state, are experiencing major flooding, said Kurt Van Speybroeck, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, in Fort Worth, Texas. “We reached record levels of flooding on several river systems in south Louisiana.” he added. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was on the ground and processing claims for help. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said his agency was preparing for “a very large response” to help flood victims and the immediate issue was finding a safe place for affected residents to stay. “A lot of people didn’t have flood insurance,” he said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday, adding he had spoken on Wednesday with President Barack Obama about recovery efforts. Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said on Thursday the flooding has made it more likely the state would rely on a short-term bank loan to shore up government funding. The state had anticipated the need for cash flow borrowing before the flooding, the governor’s office said. Louisiana is grappling with years of unresolved structural budget deficits that have collided with a weakening state economy and a sharp drop in revenues from oil and gas extraction taxes. The state believes it ended the last fiscal year with a deficit that must be closed this year. It is also grappling with a potential $1.5 billion budget gap for the next budget year of 2018-19. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Robin Respaut in San Francisco, Susan Heavey in Washington and Letitia Stein in Tampa; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell)