Trump declares a state of emergency as Storm Barry approaches

Storm, Hurrican, Ocean, Shore, Weather
Trump declares a state of emergency as Storm Barry approaches

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Barry approached New Orleans, which was preparing for heavy rains on Friday, haunted by the memory of powerful Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The storm, which has gained momentum, was expected to turn into a hurricane on Friday evening or early Saturday, just before its centre reached the Louisiana coast, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC). The storms have already caused major flooding in recent days in New Orleans.
According to the NHC, wind speeds have increased to 80 km/h with strong gusts, and the storm will cause "potentially deadly floods" in coastal areas and along rivers.

"This is going to be an extreme rain event" affecting much of Louisiana, warned Southern State Governor John Bel Edwards, who has obtained a declaration of a state of emergency from Donald Trump.

This measure, decreed on Thursday evening, allows federal agencies to participate in the relief effort.
The American president urged the inhabitants of the areas concerned to follow the instructions of the federal and local authorities. "Please be prepared, be careful, and be safe," he tweeted.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called on residents to stay safe and collect supplies, and to follow the latest forecasts.

The storm was Thursday at 4:00 p. m. (local time) 145 kilometres southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in several counties.

The US Department of Homeland Security has also indicated that the services responsible for arresting and deporting illegal immigrants would not target evacuated migrants.

"Our priority is to protect lives and ensure safety," the ministry said.

Meteorological services in New Orleans, a city below sea level, have warned of a "threat of major flooding" due to "heavy rains (which) could lead to flash floods and potentially deadly flooding of major rivers".

"I'm a little nervous," Lorraine Jones, who came from Charlotte, North Carolina, for a convention, told AFP. "At that moment, I feel safe, but if things get worse, we will move."

The authorities recalled that floods were responsible for 75% of hurricane deaths.

If the forecasts come true, Barry will be the first hurricane of the season in the Atlantic, which runs from June to November. Category 1 - on the Saffir-Simpson scale of 5 - has winds of at least 119 km/h.

New Orleans still bears the scars of powerful category 5 hurricane Katrina at the end of August 2005. The dikes had failed under the weight of the water, flooding 80% of the city and causing a thousand deaths, out of a total of more than 1,800 during the disaster.

The Army Corps of Engineers reported that the dikes in the south of the city raised some concerns, but appeared to present low risks to the city itself, according to the CBS channel.

A local official said on Wednesday that the 118 pumps scattered throughout the city were operational in "optimal capacity".

The dikes protecting the city are designed for a 6.10-metre flood. Meteorologists expected this level to be reached on Saturday morning, but they revised their expectations downwards, and the river should peak at 5.79 metres.

Rainfall of 15 to 20 centimetres has already fallen in the New Orleans metropolitan area, causing flooding.

Up to fifty centimetres of rain is expected in places.

Some roads have been under water since Wednesday. Sandbags protect doorways. State teams and residents are picking up debris and waste carried by the current in some areas, said an AFP journalist.
On Wednesday, the authorities launched an appeal to the residents to clean any blocked water drainage systems.

New Orleans International Airport, Louisiana's main city, has planned to operate until conditions "become dangerous or infrastructure is damaged.