Deaths, worries about assistance mount after Hurricane Laura

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Rakisha Murray cries in relief as she arrives to see her mother's home undamaged, after she returned from evacuation with her mother and other family in Lake Charles, La., in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

LAKE CHARLES, La. – In a matter of hours last week, Hurricane Laura tore through the tire shop Layla Winbush's family started just under a year ago, reducing most of it to rubble and scattering hundreds of tires across the lot. The storm also damaged her home, which now reeks of mold.

Federal and state officials are on the ground to help residents with home repairs and hotel stays. But Winbush said she feels alone, particularly after seeing a video of President Donald Trump, who visited the area Saturday, joking with Gulf Coast officials that they could sell copies of his signature for $10,000.

“We can’t depend on the president. We can’t depend on nobody,” she said. “We’ll just take what we have and get it done.”

As evacuated Lake Charles residents return home, many worry they wouldn’t have enough support from both the federal and state governments as they face a rebuilding process certain to take several months, if not longer.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday warned that residents were in for a long recovery, with 324,000 power outages across the state and 600,000 people either without water or under boil water advisories. Meanwhile, stifling heat and humidity were adding to the trouble of clearing out debris, patching roofs and starting rebuilding work.

“This is going to be a very difficult storm to recover from,” he said.

But Edwards praised the federal response so far, saying the Federal Emergency Management Agency was quick to arrive with assistance and sent hundreds of workers for recovery efforts. On Monday, Edwards announced a temporary roofing program operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Nineteen deaths in Texas and Louisiana have been attributed to the storm; half were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators. The latest, reported Monday by Louisiana's health department, was a 49-year-old man in Rapides Parish who died when a tree he was cutting fell on him.