Louisiana, United States: Hurricane Laura makes landfall, causes severe damage

Hurricane Laura made landfall  shortly after midnight near the district of Cameron, in the US state of Louisiana, causing flash floods, severe damage to buildings and power cuts to half a million homes.

It is one of the strongest to ever hit the US Gulf Coast, striking at category four with winds up to 240km/hr.

NWS said “a catastrophic storm surge, hurricane force winds and flash flooding will continue”.

Forecasters had earlier warned of an “un-survivable” storm surge. But they said a slight change in wind direction had spared some areas from the feared 20ft surge, with 9ft (2.7m) recorded in some parts.

However, the surge could still affect areas 40 miles or more inland, up to the Lake Charles area, which has a lot of vulnerable marshland. Flood waters would “not fully recede for several days”, the NWS said.

Over half a million residents had been ordered to leave parts of Texas and Louisiana. More than 500,000 homes in Louisiana and more than 100,000 in Texas lost power early Thursday.

“We’ve had daylight now for a couple of hours. It appears there is more structural damage from the wind and a little less flood damage than we anticipated,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on Thursday.

Laura and another storm, Marco, earlier swept across the Caribbean, killing 24 people. Marco struck Louisiana on Monday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.

Initially it was feared that both storms would hit Louisiana as hurricanes within 48 hours of each other – an unprecedented event – but Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm.