President Obama has approved a request from the governor of Louisiana for federal emergency funds to help the state recover from the historic floods that have caused at least six deaths, stranded 20,000 and submerged thousands of homes and vehicles.
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"This evening, the President spoke with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to let him know that his request for an emergency declaration has been granted for the state's flood response and recovery efforts," White House Deputy Press Secretary Jen Friedman said in a statement, adding that "his prayers are with the people of Louisiana, and that his Administration will continue to support the state's ongoing recovery."
Emergency workers in Louisiana have rescued more than 20,000 stranded residents from submerged homes and cars in the wake of massive flooding that caused devastation across southern Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards said Sunday. More than 500 pets have also been rescued.
Emergency management officials joined the governor at a press conference on Sunday and emphasized search and rescue operations were still underway, and that boats and helicopters have been deployed in the search efforts.
More than 10,000 people took refuge in shelters, some sleeping on the floor because of a shortage of beds, according to officials. The shelters themselves were not immune to flood damage, however, and some had to be evacuated due to rising waters, authorities said.
The federal emergency funds will be available to people in four parishes in Louisiana while FEMA continues to survey the area: East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa.
About 200 roads have been closed because due to high water, officials said, and 1,400 bridges need to be inspected before they are reopened to traffic, officials said.
Most of the flooding has been around Baton Rouge.
Meanwhile, the persistent rainfall that led to the flood has not shown signs of completely stopping. The National Weather Service said a slow-moving pressure system would continue to bring precipitation to Louisiana and parts of Southern Texas on Sunday.
For the many people forced out of their homes, there is the added complication of limited mobile phone service. AT&T mobile users in the greater Baton Rouge area have reported large outages of service.
Louisiana has long been been considered extremely vulnerable to flooding events like this by scientists, who note that a confluence of rising seas and low lying land put residents in long term danger of losing their land.
The damage caused this weekend serves as a reminder of how devastating flooding can be.
An elderly man drowned Saturday after slipping and falling in high waters amid heavy rain in East Baton Rouge Parish. In St. Helena Parish, a man died when his pickup truck was swept off a flooded highway and submerged underwater, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference. The corpse of a drowned woman was recovered from the Tickfaw River in southeast Louisiana, according to Michael Martin, chief of operations for the St. Helena Sheriff's Office.
Gov. Edwards noted that he and his family were forced to leave the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge when chest-high water filled the basement and electricity shut off.
"I'm still asking people to be patient. Don't get out and sightsee," Edwards said yesterday.
"Even when the weather is better, it's not safe."
Troy McMullen, Morgan Winsor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.