Louisiana flooding victims now struggling with where to live

2016-08-18 18:38
Residents wade through flood water in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Brianna Paciorka, The Advocate via AP)

Residents wade through flood water in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Brianna Paciorka, The Advocate via AP)

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Denham Springs - Keisha Taylor, a 37-year-old mother of four, has spent three nights in two different shelters since her family fled the flooding at their Baton Rouge apartment complex. And she doesn't know how many more nights they will be sleeping on cots inside the downtown arena where hundreds sought shelter.

Taylor probably could stay with relatives in White Castle, a town about 50km west of Louisiana's capital city, but three of her kids are enrolled in Baton Rouge schools that could reopen next week.

"This is where I live. I need to be home," she said.

Taylor is one of thousands of people across southern Louisiana displaced by catastrophic flooding and now struggling with where to live.

With an estimated 40 000 homes damaged by deadly flooding, Louisiana could be looking at its biggest housing crunch since the miserable, bumbling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.

Temporary housing

People are staying in shelters, bunking with friends or relatives, or sleeping in trailers on their front lawns. Others unable or unwilling to leave their homes are living amid mud and the ever-present risk of mould in the steamy August heat.

Many victims will need an extended place to stay while they rebuild. Countless others didn't have flood insurance and may not have the means to repair their homes.

"I got nowhere else to go," said Thomas Lee, 56, who ekes out a living as a drywall hanger - a skill that will come in handy. His sodden furniture is piled curb-side and the drywall in his rented house is puckering, but Thomas still plans to keep living there, sleeping on an air mattress.

Exactly how many will need temporary housing is unclear, but state officials are already urging landlords to allow short-term leases and encouraging people to rent out any empty space available.

Terri Ricks, deputy secretary for the Department of Children and Family Services, which helps organise sheltering efforts in parishes, said the state is talking with parishes about possibly running a long-term shelter in the region if needed to give people a place to stay while they repair and rebuild.

"Nobody wants to do a long-term shelter," she said. "We want to get people in a more permanent situation."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose very name became a punchline during Katrina, said it will look into lining up rental properties for those left homeless and will consider using temporary housing units.

But Fema Administrator Craig Fugate gave assurances that the temporary units won't be the old Fema travel trailers - a reference to the ones brought in after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that were found to have toxic levels of formaldehyde.

The flooding that struck the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas left at least 13 people dead. More than 30 000 have been rescued, and at least 70 000 have registered for federal disaster assistance.

At the height, 11 000 people were in shelters, though that figured dropped to 6 000 by Wednesday.

Read more on:    us  |  floods

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