At least 14 people have been killed after the hurricane flooded streets, submerging or destroying buildings, leaving more than 600,000 homes without power in Louisiana and neighbouring Texas.

Brent Morvant cleans up his paint and body shop after Hurricane Laura passed through the area in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, US August 28, 2020
Brent Morvant cleans up his paint and body shop after Hurricane Laura passed through the area in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, US August 28, 2020 (Reuters)

At least 14 people were killed after Hurricane Laura slammed into the southern US states of Louisiana and Texas, authorities and local media has said.

A day after the Category 4 storm hit, more bodies emerged in the aftermath in Louisiana and neighbouring Texas. Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards confirmed the deaths included five people killed by fallen trees and one person who drowned in a boat. 

Eight people died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to unsafe operation of generators, including three inside a Texas pool hall, where authorities say the owner had let seven Vietnamese shrimp boat laborers and homeless men take shelter. 

The other four were in critical condition.

READ MORE: Hurricane Laura weakens after 'catastrophic' landfall in southern US

Four of the remaining deaths were caused by trees falling on people's homes, according to Edwards, while a man drowned after his boat sank in the storm.

Grim Reality

The lack of essential resources was grim for the many evacuated residents eager to return.

Chad Peterson planned to board up a window and head to Florida. “There’s no power. There’s no water. There’s no utilities,” he said.

There were 464,813 customers without power in Louisiana on Friday, according to the site Poweroutage.us.

Texas ended up being spared the brunt of the hurricane, which has since weakened significantly. 

Dreaded return

Thousands of people who heeded dire warnings and fled the Gulf Coast returned to homes without roofs, roads littered with debris and the likeli hood of a harsh recovery that could take months.

The White House said President Donald Trump would visit the region on Saturday and survey the damage.

Simply driving in Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents that sustained some of the worst damage, was a feat. 

No easy fix in sight

Power lines and trees blocked paths or created one-lane roads that drivers had to navigate with oncoming traffic. Street signs were snapped off their perches or dangled, and no stoplights worked, making it a trust exercise with those sharing the roads.

READ MORE: Thousands flee US Gulf Coast as Laura strengthens

Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” resulting in barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets. "If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” Hunter wrote on Facebook.

Caravans of utility trucks were met Friday by thunderstorms in the sizzling heat, complicating recovery efforts.

Forty nursing homes were also relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return. Water outages remained a major problem in evacuated facilities, the Louisiana Department of Health said.

Long slog ahead

Meanwhile, the hurricane’s remnants threatened to bring flooding and tornadoes to Tennessee as the storm, now a tropical depression, drifted north. 

Forecasters warned that the system could strengthen into a tropical storm again upon returning to the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.

In the storm's wake, more than 600,000 homes and businesses were without power in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.

The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water. Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.

Ira Lyles returned to find that his down town Lake Charles salon called The Parlor House survived with little damage, but his home was destroyed.

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“It tore the front off, tore the front of the roof off, picked up my camper trailer and hit the side wall, and the side wall buckled and cracked inside,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a wash.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called Laura, which packed a top wind speed of 241 kph, the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005. He said officials now believe the surge was as high as 4.5 metres and added that tens of thousands of people were displaced by the storm.

Presidential support

Late Friday night, Edwards announced that the president had approved Louisiana's major disaster declaration request, saying in a statement that the step paves the way for getting aid to the hard-hit communities.

More than 580,000 coastal residents were put under evacuation as the hurricane gained strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Laura was the seventh named storm to strike the US this year, setting a new record for US landfalls by the end of August. Laura hit the US after killing nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In Lake Charles, chainsaws buzzed and heavy machinery hauled tree limbs in the front lawn of Stanley and Dominique Hazelton, who rode out the storm on a bathroom floor. A tree punctured the roof just a few metres from where the couple was taking cover.

They regretted staying.

"There’s people without homes,” Stanley Hazelton said. “So it was dumb. We’ll never do it again. We’ll never stay through another hurricane again.”

Earlier Friday, Haiti's civil protection service said 31 people had died due to Hurricane Laura, which blasted the island nation as a tropical storm last weekend before turning into a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies