Five dead, 20,000 rescued in Louisiana floods

Cars stuck on flooded O'Neal Lane in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Aug 14, 2016.
Cars stuck on flooded O'Neal Lane in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Aug 14, 2016. PHOTO: EPA/LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & DEVELOPMENT

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Emergency crews in flood-devastated Louisiana have rescued more than 20,000 people after catastrophic inundations that left at least five dead, news reports said on Monday (Aug 15).

As many as 10,000 people are living in shelters after a weekend of torrential rains that has prompted the federal government to declare a disaster, according to Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards.

At least five people have died in the flooding, including a woman whose car was washed away on Saturday night when she tried to turn around in high water, CNN reported, quoting officials in East Baton Rouge.

The White House action makes emergency federal funding available to support rescue crews working nonstop.

"This is a serious event," Mr Edwards said on Sunday of the record floods.

"This is ongoing," he added. "This is not over," even with the rains lessening as they move west and the sun appearing in some flooded areas.

The flooding submerged large parts of the region on Sunday, three days after water-swelled streams and rivers began rising.

Thousands were evacuated in Livingston Parish, near the capital Baton Rouge, the sheriff's department told local media.

In one dramatic rescue in Baton Rouge captured on video, rescuers on a boat pulled a woman from a car that had just slipped under water.

The woman shouts: "Oh my God, I'm drowning!"

A rescuer jumps into the murky brown water and pulls her out by the arm. When she tries to dive under for her dog, he goes underwater and reappears holding the dog.

Most of the flooding has been around the capital Baton Rouge.

Mr Edwards said he and his family were forced to leave the governor's mansion after water filled the basement, shutting off electricity.

The heavy rains began on Friday, with between 15cm to 25cm of rain falling on parts of southeast Louisiana, and several more centimetres on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.