'Unprecedented' floods kill at least three in southern US

A flooded road in Denham Springs, Louisiana. The National Weather Service described the flooding in the state as "catastrophic".
A flooded road in Denham Springs, Louisiana. The National Weather Service described the flooding in the state as "catastrophic".PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Torrential rains have caused record flooding in parts of the southern United States, with US media reporting at least three deaths. Flooding in south-eastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi shut down roads, cutting off at least one town on Saturday, as an area of low pressure slowly moved west along the Gulf Coast.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, calling the flooding "unprecedented". "We have record levels of flooding along rivers and creeks," he told reporters, urging residents who have been advised to evacuate to leave their homes.

Emergency services were transporting residents by high-water vehicles, boats and aircraft, he said. Over 1,000 people had been evacuated in Louisiana, the authorities said.

The floods killed at least three people on Friday, media reported. Among them was a man in the Louisiana town of Zachary, near the capital Baton Rouge, who drowned trying to escape flood waters, local television reported.

"We were walking out and he slipped and fell," his roommate Vernon Drummond said. "He went under the water. We tried to save him, but we couldn't."

The area had recorded 10 inches to 15 inches (25.4cm to 38.1cm) of rain, meteorologist David Roth of the National Weather Service said. Another 25cm was expected in parts of Louisiana yesterday and today.

Mr Layton Ricks, president of Livingston parish in the Baton Rouge area, said that "we're experiencing one of the worst storm events we've ever had, with flash flooding", adding that roads that had never flooded were under water.

The weather service said that the storms had "resulted in catastrophic flash flooding across Louisiana" and were continuing to produce very heavy rainfall as the threat of heavy rain expanded westwards. Showers and thunderstorms would continue today, it predicted.

Electric utility company Entergy Louisiana said that more than 11,700 customers had been affected by power outages as of Saturday night.

On the East Coast, meanwhile, millions of residents were sweating through a heatwave amid extreme weather warnings in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. The combination of heat and humidity would make it feel as hot as 43 deg C in those cities, said the authorities.

They also warned of heat-related health problems, especially for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, and for people who work outdoors. The heatwave stretched from south-western Ohio to western Virginia and Washington, and north through Philadelphia, New York and Boston, the weather service said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2016, with the headline ''Unprecedented' floods kill at least three in southern US'. Print Edition | Subscribe