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Isaac claims 29 lives as families flee flood

The storm that had been Hurricane Isaac has crawled into the central US, leaving behind a soggy mess in Louisiana and two newly reported deaths.

Neighbourhoods were underwater and even homes that stayed dry didn't have lights, air conditioning or clean water.

It will be a few days before the soupy brown water recedes and people in flooded areas can return home. New Orleans itself was spared, thanks in large part to a levee system fortified after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney planned to tour the storm's damage in Louisiana yesterday. President Barack Obama is due to visit the state on Monday.

Meanwhile, New Orleans lifted its storm-related curfew but was hardly back to normal.

Isaac dumped as much as 16 inches (406mm) of rain in some areas, and about 500 people had to be rescued by boat or high-water vehicles. Many people said more water inundated their homes during this storm than during Katrina.

At least five deaths were reported in Louisiana and Mississippi. The latest two victims, a man and a woman, were discovered late on Thursday in a home in Braithwaite, south of New Orleans.

A man died in a restaurant blaze that firefighters could not control because of strong winds on Wednesday. Another died falling from a tree during the storm, and a driver was killed when a tree crushed his truck.



PRESSURE

The storm earlier killed 24 in Haiti and five in the Dominican Republic.

And the damage may not be over. Officials were pumping water from a reservoir to ease the pressure behind an Isaac-stressed dam in Mississippi on the Louisiana border. They planned to punch a hole in the dam to release excess water in a controlled fashion.

In Louisiana, the storm cut power to 901,000 homes and businesses, almost half the state. Officials said it would be at least two days before power was fully restored.

On a street turned river in Reserve, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, two young men ferried neighbours to the highway.

Lucien Chopin (29) was last to leave his house, waiting until his wife and three children were safely away. His van was underwater and water flowed waist-high in the house he'd rented.

"It's like, everything is down the drain. I lost everything. I've gotta start all over," he said.

Isaac hit on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, a far stronger hurricane that devastated New Orleans.

Both storms prompted criticism of the government -- in the case of Isaac, officials' calls for evacuations so long after the storm made landfall caused some consternation.

However, hurricane specialist Eric Blake said: "Every hurricane is different. If you're trying to use the last hurricane to gauge your storm surge risk, it's very dangerous."

hnews@herald.ie


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