Louisiana floodwaters begin to recede but thousands remain in shelters

Massive recovery operation begins as Red Cross reports flood that left 11 dead and damaged 40,000 homes is worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012

Floodwaters in Louisiana have begun to recede, but the horror of the disaster continues to mount: on Wednesday afternoon more than 30,000 people had been rescued from the flood, 40,000 homes were affected and 6,000 people remained in shelters. At least 11 people have died.

As some residents get a first glimpse of their destroyed homes, reunite with loved ones and connect with friends via social media, the scale of the trauma is coming into view. The American Red Cross reports that the flood is the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The Red Cross is mounting a massive relief operation, which we anticipate will cost at least $30 million and that number may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation, Brad Kieserman, vice-president for disaster logistics for the Red Cross, said in a statement.

Sorrento,

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figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Travis Guedry and his dog Ziggy glide through floodwaters keeping an eye out for people in need on Wednesday in Sorrento, Louisiana. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Barack Obama has declared the flood a major disaster, with 20 of the states 64 parishes damaged. Scattered reports of looting have emerged, and Governor John Bel Edwards said some parishes will enforce curfews at night. And the floods could have an impact well beyond the region; Exxon Mobil Corporation slowed production at its Baton Rouge oil refinery, the fourth-largest refinery in the US.

The rainstorm was just that rain and so it crept up on residents without the alarms and warnings that accompany a hurricane. It began in the Florida panhandle and worked its way west along the gulf coastline, never swerving south to gain strength in the gulf, and never turning north to die over land. Eventually it came to a stop over south Louisiana and gushed rain for days, sometimes at a rate of three inches an hour.

Southern Louisiana is a flat, low-lying plain so there was nowhere for the water to go; once the rivers filled, the water went cascading across the landscape, sometimes rising a foot an hour as people scrambled to keep their children and pets safe.

As the floods sneaked up on residents, they did likewise to the national consciousness. Charities and media organizations are mobilizing now, but locals say that for days they felt abandoned by a country distracted by political turmoil.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/17/louisiana-floodwaters-recede-relief-recovery

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