Nine dead, thousands of homes ravaged in Louisiana floods

Residents use a boat to navigate through flood waters in Ascension Parish

BATON ROUGE, La. — Search-and-rescue operations were still underway Tuesday in Louisiana, where at least nine people have died in flooding that damaged about 40,000 homes, state officials said.Emergency crews have already plucked more than 20,000 people and 1,000 pets to safety from flooded areas after a storm that broke records for 24-hour rainfall in multiple locations, Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters in Baton Rouge.Rain-swollen rivers are receding in much of the state, but some communities in southern Louisiana are bracing for waters that have not yet crested, according to national forecasters.More than 8,000 people slept in emergency shelters Monday night, unable to return to their homes, Edwards said at a news conference. The state planned to impose curfews Tuesday night in the parishes with widespread damage.”This is a historic flooding event,” Edwards said of the unnamed storm. “It’s unprecedented.”The storm dumped more than 2-1/2 feet of rain on an area near Watson, La., from Thursday to Monday morning, the highest total reported, according to the National Weather Service.In Abbeville, La., a 125-year-old record for 24-hour rainfall was shattered by 16.38 inches of rain from Friday to Saturday, the weather service reported.The flooding prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to issue a disaster declaration Sunday, with additional parishes given approval Tuesday to be eligible for the federal assistance.Already, 40,000 residents have registered for disaster aid, Edwards said.Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters the “very large disaster” was affecting more people than flooding in March that left at least four dead and thousands of homes damaged in Louisiana and Mississippi.Louisiana will mark the 11th anniversary later this month of Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people when floods overwhelmed levees and broke through flood walls protecting New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005.The state’s death toll from the latest inundation rose to nine Tuesday with the discovery of a 58-year-old man’s body near his home in East Baton Rouge Parish. The man died of an accidental drowning, parish coroner Dr. Beau Clark said in a phone interview.In Tangipahoa Parish, authorities believe that a 20-year-old woman found inside her car was killed after her vehicle was washed right off the road, leaving it submerged.A 59-year-old man who died in the same parish appeared to have been swept away by rushing floodwaters.Many in Louisiana are trying to reach friends and relatives displaced by the storm, the governor acknowledged, noting that most were likely safe but without communications.”We understand that there are a lot of people who are suffering,” Edwards said.