Louisiana guardsmen rescue thousands in floods

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Louisiana National Guardsmen have rescued more than 4,000 people in the floods that inundated the state earlier this month, a state Guard spokesman said.

About 1,200 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard members have been mobilized and are working with local partners to support the mission, said Air Force Col. Pete Schneider, the state public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.

Schneider, who spoke March 14 in a phone interview from New Orleans, said floodwaters following heavy rains have inundated neighborhoods, washed over roads and trapped residents. Soldiers and Airmen are searching neighborhoods and going door to door to rescue people, he said.

“A lot of these guardsmen are doing lifesaving in their own neighborhoods, so they’re serving in the communities where they live,” he said. “We are in every part of the state. We’re actually in 33 parishes in the state.”

The guardsmen, working around the clock, are performing search and rescue operations using almost every piece of equipment they have, including boats, trucks, Humvees and helicopters, the colonel said. 

Boat crews and aircrews have rescued people stranded around dangerous, quickly moving floodwaters, he added.

At last tally, Schneider said, Louisiana guardsmen had rescued 4,255 people and 354 pets and had issued nearly 72,000 bottles of water, more than 1 million sandbags, 700 cots and hundreds of packaged meals.

After the waters recede, Schneider said, the National Guard will support recovery efforts, a mission that could last for months.

In addition to fighting the nation’s wars, guardsmen are proud to serve and protect their state and communities, the colonel said. “They’re able to make an immediate difference by saving lives (and) protecting property,” he said. “If you ask them, this is why they joined.”

At the Pentagon on March 14, a Defense Department spokesman commended the efforts of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard.

“This is just another example of the outstanding efforts of our National Guard to help the people of their state in their greatest time of need,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.

President Barack Obama has declared that a major disaster exists in Louisiana, and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

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