Donald Trump departed the White House on Saturday morning heading for south-west Louisiana to tour the damage there and in neighbouring Texas, two days after Hurricane Laura powered in off the Gulf of Mexico with winds up to 150mph, knocking out power and causing extensive flooding and lack of running water across several towns.
‘Devastation everywhere’: Louisiana city wakes up to storm’s aftermath
The US president, who on Friday approved Louisiana’s request for a major disaster declaration in 23 parishes, as local jurisdictions are called in the state, is expected to arrive in Lake Charles around noon local time and meet with the governor, John Bel Edwards.
In a statement, Edwards said the devastation and damage stretch all the way to northern parts of Louisiana. Trump’s action would “pave the way for getting aid to individuals and communities impacted by Hurricane Laura”, Edwards said.
Officials said 400,000 were without power on Saturday morning and 200,000 without water.
The White House said on Friday that Trump would “survey storm damage and receive briefings on emergency operations and ongoing relief efforts” when he arrives.
At least 14 deaths – 10 in Louisiana and four in Texas – are now attributed to the category 4 hurricane, which packed the strongest winds of any storm on record to hit the southern shoreline and left extensive damage to homes and water systems across a swath of coastal land 40 miles wide.
On Saturday, more than 40 million Americans up the eastern seaboard as far north as Connecticut, were braced for fierce weather stirred by Laura’s tail, with winds over 60mph and torrential rain forecast.
Wind damage in Louisiana was widespread, with roofs blown off homes and windows smashed. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power or clean water, but forecasts that the storm would inundate the state’s sixth largest city, Lake Charles, with as much as 20 feet of floodwater were not realized.
Firefighters were still battling a chemical fire at a chlorine plant near the city on Friday, a day after the blaze was temporarily extinguished.
The factory, which produces chlorine products for swimming pools, released an unknown quantity of gas, according to the Louisiana fire marshal’s office. The fire prompted an expanded shelter-in-place alert and warnings to avoid contact with chlorine gas and other harmful emissions.