Louisiana residents begin cleanup as flood waters recede

Caskets are seen floating in flood waters near a cemetery on Aug 17, 2016 in Gonzales, Louisiana.
Caskets are seen floating in flood waters near a cemetery on Aug 17, 2016 in Gonzales, Louisiana.PHOTO: AFP

WALKER, United States (AFP) - Flood waters receded in southern Louisiana on Wednesday (Aug 17), after a days-long deluge that inundated vast areas, claimed 11 lives, and impacted some 40,000 homes.

Residents were cleaning up in many neighbourhoods, and trying to assess the scope of the devastation left by heavy, unrelenting rains that overwhelmed rivers and sent them flooding over their banks.

"When you have a storm that is unnamed, wasn't a tropical storm, wasn't a hurricane, a lot of the times people underestimate the impacts that it would have," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Tuesday.

The National Weather Service forecasted waterways would fall back below flood stage later Wednesday or as late as Friday, depending on the area.

In areas that have dried out, many residents began the recovery process. They were gutting their homes in a race against mould.

In Walker, a town of 6,000 people east of Baton Rouge, heaps of belongings were outside waterlogged homes strewn on front lawns. Everything from scrapbooks, TV sets, furniture to dry wall, carpeting and insulation was being thrown out.

Authorities were checking every flooded home and automobile, not knowing how many people might be missing and how many simply might be unable to communicate.

Eleven people were confirmed dead, and 40,000 homes were impacted by the floods.

"Well over 75 per cent of our parish has been touched by this," said Sheriff Jason Ard of Livingston Parish, a county of more than 130,000 people east of the Mississippi River.

"It is something that is going to take months upon months to recover from," Ard said.

Twenty parishes - similar to counties in other states - were declared disaster areas, freeing up federal money to aid with rescue operations and emergency housing, among other things.

The American Red Cross launched a donation campaign for Louisiana flood victims, and deployed 67 emergency response vehicles, according to spokesman Patrick Pannett who was interviewed by local TV station WAFB.

"We're going to have thousands of people coming in," Pannett said.

The singer Taylor Swift donated US$1 million (S$1.3 million), saying the disaster was "heartbreaking."