10 Louisiana parishes declared federal disaster areas

Sunday, September 14th 2008, 8:07 am
By: News 9

(CNN) -- Rescuers used boats and trucks Saturday to save hundreds of coastal Louisiana residents trapped by a 7-foot storm surge from Hurricane Ike.

President Bush on Saturday declared major disasters in parts of Texas and the Louisiana parishes of Acadia, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Sabine, St. Mary, Vermilion, and Vernon, making federal funds available for recovery from the devastation of Ike.

The aid would cover "grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster." Funding is also available to state and local governments for debris removal.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said Bush spoke on Saturday to local Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal about the response to the storm, rescue efforts and plans to remove debris and restore power."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator David Paulison briefed Bush on the emergency response. The president will meet again with Paulison and other federal officials on Sunday.

In Lafitte, rescuers used special trucks to help 150 stranded residents, said Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts. Each of the parish's four search-and-rescue trucks can carry 12-15 people.

Officials started using the trucks Friday, ahead of Ike's arrival early Saturday morning.

"We've rescued hundreds since yesterday," Roberts said.

Storm water inundated Lafitte on Friday when it breached a levee, sending a wave cascading into the town of about 2,000 people, said Chris Macaluso, spokesman for the office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

In Cameron Parish, where Ike flooded 1,800 homes, rescuers fanned out in boats.

"We have little rescue missions going on for the people who decided to stay. We are trying to get them out and get them some help right now," said Cameron Parish Sheriff Theos Dunhon.

Rescuers were using boats to pull residents from "chest-deep or knee-deep" water filling their homes.

Among the hardest-hit areas was Grand Isle, about 300 miles from Ike's landfall site in Galveston, Texas. It was the second time this month that a hurricane has socked Grand Isle.

Hurricane Gustav made landfall September 1 about 20 miles west of Grand Isle, flooding the town and knocking out electricity. Power had not been restored when Ike hit.

"It will be several more weeks before Grand Isle gets its power back," Roberts said.

Most residents, he said, "are used to it."

A levee that washed out during Gustav had been repaired but washed out again Saturday.

Officials did not know when residents who evacuated could return to Grand Isle and other flooded locales.

"It could be days. It could be a week," Roberts said.

Authorities in Cameron Parish were telling stranded residents to stay indoors until rescuers reach them. The residents weren't in danger, officials said.

They also urged residents who evacuated not to return until advised to do so.

"We're telling people stay where you are, don't rush home. We're not out of the woods yet," Dunhon said.

Cameron Parish, which has about 8,000 residents, was hit hard by Hurricane Rita in 2005.

"We are seeing the same flood inundation as Rita, if not more," Dunhon said.

The sheriff's office received several calls Saturday morning from people in trailers and homes who needed to be evacuated, but initially deputies couldn't reach them, Dunhon said.

Just north of Cameron Parish, in Lake Charles, Mayor Randy Roach echoed the concerns of the Cameron Parish sheriff, telling The Associated Press that flooding there is worse than it was during Hurricane Rita.

In Plaquemines Parish near New Orleans, sheriff's spokesman Maj. John Marie told AP that floodwaters are higher than they were during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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