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Dramatic rescues from Isaac-hit Gulf states


The Canadian Press
August 29, 2012 — Isaac lashes New Orleans on Katrina anniversary as people become stranded in rural Louisiana. Dramatic video captured residents being removed from their flooded homes.


Plaquemines Parish has been one of the hardest-hit areas
Plaquemines Parish has been one of the hardest-hit areas

Tropical Storm Isaac continued to lash New Orleans with heavy rains Wednesday even as it was downgraded to a tropical storm, as residents in cars and homes were stranded exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

In the swampy bayous of rural Louisiana, rescuers on boats tried to reach people stranded there. A 70-year-old man is safe on solid ground after he was rescued from a rooftop. Rescue crews in Louisiana pulled the man and his four dogs from a flooded home in Plaquemines Parish.

In New Orleans, the newly-fortified levee system appeared to be holding, though power lines were downed and debris littered the streets, prompting officials to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Louisiana officials said they may have to intentionally breach a levee in a flooded area as Isaac made a slow, drenching slog inland from the Gulf of Mexico. 

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said officials may cut a hole in a levee on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish to relieve pressure on the structure. At a news conference in Baton Rouge, Jindal said there was no estimate on when that might occur. He said as many as 40 people are reportedly in need of rescue in the area. 

Plaquemines Parish, a rural area south of New Orleans, has also ordered a mandatory evacuation for the west bank of the Mississippi River below Belle Chasse, worried about a storm surge. The order affects about 3,000 people in the area, including a nursing home with 112 residents. Officials said the evacuation was ordered out of concern that more storm surge from Isaac would be pushed into the area and levees might be overtopped. 

Rescuers in boats and trucks plucked a handful of people who became stranded by floodwaters in thinly populated areas of southeast Louisiana. Authorities feared many more could need help after a night of slashing rain and fierce winds that knocked out power to more than 600,000 households and businesses. The hurricane also cancelled commemoration ceremonies Wednesday for Katrina's 1,800 dead in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Isaac was testing a New Orleans levee system bolstered by $14 billion in federal repairs and improvements after the catastrophic failures during Katrina. Army Corps spokeswoman Rachel Rodi said the city's bigger, stronger levees were withstanding the assault.

Homeowners and their pets were rescued from flooded sections of Louisiana Wednesday
Homeowners and their pets were rescued from flooded sections of Louisiana Wednesday

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued a curfew for the city as Isaac lashed the city on the seven-year anniversary of Katrina's destructive arrival. Police cars had been patrolling the nearly empty streets since Isaac began bringing fierce winds and heavy rains to the city Tuesday night. The curfew was set to start Wednesday night and would last until further notice. 

Rescuers in boats and trucks plucked a handful of people who became stranded by floodwaters in thinly populated areas of southeast Louisiana. Authorities feared many more could need help after a night of slashing rain and fierce winds that knocked out power to more than 600,000 households and businesses. 

The storm drew massive attention because of its timing __ coinciding not only with the Katrina anniversary, but also the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Isaac also posed political challenges with echoes of those that followed Katrina, a reminder of how the storm became a symbol of government ineptitude. 

President Barack Obama sought to demonstrate his ability to guide the nation through a natural disaster, and Republicans tried to reassure residents as they formally nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. Obama, campaigning before a university crowd in Virginia, pledged that the government was "doing every single thing we need to do to make sure the folks down there are taken care of." 

Although Isaac was much weaker than Katrina, the threat of dangerous storm surges and flooding from heavy rain was expected to last all day and into the night as the immense comma-shaped storm crawled across Louisiana. The extent of the damage was not entirely clear because officials did not want to send emergency crews into harm's way.

In Plaquemines Parish, a fishing community south of New Orleans, about two dozen people who stayed behind despite evacuation orders needed to be rescued. As Isaac's eye passed overhead, authorities in armoured vehicles saved a family whose roof was ripped off, Larpenter said. Two police officers had to be rescued by boat after their car became stuck.

Rescuers were waiting for the strong winds to die down before moving out to search for other people. Water driven by the large and powerful storm flooded over an 18-mile (30-kilometre) stretch of one levee in Plaquemines Parish. The levee, one of many across the low-lying coastal zone, is not part of the new defenses constructed in New Orleans after Katrina. 

With files from The Weather Network and The Associated Press

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