The American Red Cross is calling this week’s flooding in Louisiana the worst disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. At least 13 people were killed after historic rainfall submerged parts of Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. State officials say the destruction may result in the worst housing crisis in the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The federal government has declared the area a disaster zone and the Louisiana Governor’s Office has said at least 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. In Livingston Parish, home to about 138,000 people, it is estimated 75 percent of the homes have been lost.
“Thousands of people in Louisiana have lost everything they own and need our help now,” said Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross’ vice president of disaster services operations and logistics.
“This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million — a number which may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.”
In one part of Livingston Parish, more than 31 inches of rain fell in 15 hours. US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited flood-stricken areas a day after the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived.
Twenty parishes were under a federal disaster zone and more than a dozen were subject to overnight curfews. At least 14 people have been arrested for looting over the last two days in East Baton Rouge Parish and nine more were arrested for the same crime in nearby Livingston Parish, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
President Barack Obama had directed FEMA Director Craig Fugate to “utilize all resources available to assist in the response and recovery,” the White House said. Obama has declared at least 20 parishes as disaster areas. The US Coast Guard, National Guard, local emergency responders and even neighbors have helped rescue more than 30,000 residents and 1,400 pets.
At least a dozen parishes were still under flood warnings as of Thursday, with scattered storms in the forecast, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. “River levels are expected to continue to fall, but some will remain in flood stages at least through the weekend,” “And given Louisiana’s topography, this recovery will be exceptionally slow.”