La. flooding death toll at 11; 40,000 homes damaged

The death toll from historic flooding rose to 11 on Tuesday as sweeping floodwaters that have damaged more than 40,000 homes continued to overwhelm Baton Rouge and much of southern Louisiana.

More than 30,000 people have been rescued since Friday, including 15,000 in the Greater Baton Rouge parish of Livingston. More than 8,000 people spent Monday night in shelters, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

Eight additional parishes had been approved for inclusion in the federal disaster declaration, bringing the total to 20, Edwards said. More parishes will be added as officials are able to quantify the devastation, he said.

About 60,000 people have registered for disaster assistance, Edwards' office said. "Nobody is going to be forgotten, and we are going to be working around the clock and doing everything possible to render aid," Edwards said.

The declaration makes federal money available for rent of temporary housing as well as for covering costs of home repairs not covered by insurance. Edwards said more than 40,000 homes were damaged, although numbers reported from local officials indicated that estimate could be low.

Flooding began over the weekend, and Edwards said emergency officials remain in search-and-rescue mode. They're shuttling people to safe, higher ground and shelters when necessary.

Scores of roads have been washed out, and dry spots often made it impossible for boats to get through, delaying some rescue efforts. That's leading to a great deal of frustration for those making up the “Cajun Navy” of volunteers trying to help.

Livingston Parish and its 140,000 residents were among the hardest hit. Lori Steele, spokeswoman for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press an estimated 75% of the homes were a “total loss.” But she said rescues taking place Tuesday were less about saving lives and more about helping people running low on supplies.

In Ascension Parish, water sweeping across major roadways forced hundreds of residents to take shelter in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

"Some people are evacuating, some people don't want to," Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert said. "Our volunteer fire department is going around now for our special needs people, making sure they are getting out or have a way to get out.

"We're asking people, if you're going to fight it, fight it, but I think it was a tough decision to make for everybody."

Reports of looting prompted a curfew in Baton Rouge. Several arrests were made Monday, the Associated Press reported. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said the curfew was to be in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

New Orleans has been unscathed by the flooding, and Airbnb was offering accommodations there for those displaced elsewhere by the waters. The website, which has been a constant point of contention within the state, said in a release it activated its disaster response tool and encouraged hosts to aid displaced residents with housing.

Although the short-term rentals the site usually hosts are illegal in tourism-driven New Orleans, the law is rarely enforced.

Also Tuesday, singer Taylor Swift told AP she was donating $1 million for flood relief. She said Louisiana residents graciously welcomed her when she kicked off the U.S. dates of her "1989 World Tour" in the state last year.

Contributing: WWL-TV, New Orleans