The Latest: Governor defends Obama's response to flooding

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) " The Latest on flooding in southern Louisiana (all times local):

3:05 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is defending the Obama administration's response to the severe flooding in his state.

President Barack Obama has received criticism for staying on vacation rather than traveling to Louisiana to see the damage first-hand.

But Edwards said Thursday that he's spoken with the White House daily and has received quick responses for each request he's made to the administration. He noted that FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visited the state Tuesday and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was in-state Thursday.

Edwards said he is "not complaining in any way about our federal partnership."

He added that while the President can visit whenever he'd like, he'd prefer him to wait "a week or two" because such visits require local police and first responders to help block roads and provide security.

Both Obama and Edwards are Democrats.

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3 p.m.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says it plans to help alleviate severe flooding in parts of southern Louisiana by making two 50-foot cuts in the southern protection levee on Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron and Vermilion parishes.

Both cuts should be completed by late Thursday and will help relieve flooding in Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes in the Mermentau Basin.

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, located in eastern Cameron and western Vermilion Parishes, is owned and maintained by the state and LDWF. It encompasses about 76,000 acres and borders the Gulf of Mexico for 26.5 miles and extends inland toward the Grand Chenier ridge, a stranded beach ridge, six miles from the Gulf.

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2:30 p.m.

After a tour of flood-ravaged southern Louisiana, the nation's Homeland Security secretary is pledging that the federal government "will be here as long as it takes to help this community recover."

In a news conference Thursday with Gov. John Bel Edwards and other officials, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said he expects to brief President Barack Obama soon, and said the president is getting daily briefings on the situation in Louisiana. Obama is currently on vacation in New England.

Johnson said more than 900 Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel are on the ground in Louisiana and hundreds more are expected. He and the governor urged those affected by flooding to apply for government assistance.

Edwards said more than 40,000 homes were affected by the flooding and more than 30,000 people have been rescued. At least 13 people have died.

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Noon:

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief financial adviser says catastrophic flooding has made it more likely the state will need a short-term bank loan to keep paying for government operations.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told a panel of state officials Thursday the need for the loan was "more probable than not."

The Edwards administration was worried about cash flow problems even before the storms, because his predecessor and lawmakers heavily drained state treasury reserves to patch together prior year budgets.

With Louisiana's flood response costs mounting " and the timeline for receiving federal disaster aid not certain " that heightens cash flow concerns. Dardenne said the state has documented about $13 million in disaster spending so far, and he expects that figure is low.

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11:45 a.m.

President Barack Obama is unlikely to break from a New England vacation to survey Louisiana flood damage, despite calls for him to visit.

The White House says Obama is not indifferent to the suffering of thousands who were washed out of their homes in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas of the state. At least 13 people have died because of the flooding.

The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge on Wednesday called on Obama to visit "the most anguished state in the union."

Obama has not commented on the flooding. The White House says he's being updated regularly and has approved a federal disaster declaration for the affected areas.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visited Louisiana on Wednesday, followed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday.

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10:45 a.m.

The number of people staying in shelters after the massive flooding across south Louisiana continues to drop.

The state estimated about 4,000 people remained in shelters Thursday, as more people found temporary housing with family and friends or returned to stay in their homes as they repaired them.

At one point during the height of the flooding shelters across several parishes housed an estimated 11,000 displaced by the storms.

More than 2,000 animals remain evacuated Thursday to a special animal shelter housing livestock and pets in Ascension Parish.

As the water continues to drain in most flooded areas, more than 85,000 people have registered for federal disaster aid with FEMA.

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10:30 a.m.

Federal officials plan to speed federal disaster assistance to flood-stricken Louisiana.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julin Castro said in a news release Thursday that his agency will provide support to homeowners and low-income renters displaced by severe storms and flooding.

President Barack Obama has issued a disaster declaration for 20 parishes: Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington and West Feliciana. It allows HUD to offer foreclosure relief and other help to certain families in the parishes.

Castro said the disaster declaration gives city and state officials the flexibility to redirect millions of dollars in annual formula funding to address critical needs, including housing and services for disaster victims.

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7:15 a.m.

Dogs displaced by flooding in southern Louisiana are going to a shelter in Florida.

WFTS-TV in Tampa reports (http://bit.ly/2bfkCBI) the Humane Society of Tampa Bay agreed to take 18 dogs from Acadiana Animal Aid shelter in Lafayette.

The dogs will be available for adoption Thursday.

About 60 dogs from the Vermilion Parish shelter took a trip Wednesday to St. Tammany Parish.

Toney Wade with the Animal Cruelty Task Force tells KATC TV (http://bit.ly/2b6x3hD) the Abbeville shelter got a couple of inches of water inside.

He said the St. Tammany shelter plans to adopt out the dogs.

Wade said he plans to empty out other shelters in the Acadiana area in the coming days. He said they're expecting to refill the shelters with dogs that got trapped by flood waters.

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4 a.m.

Authorities in a community in southern Louisiana are calling for residents to evacuate amid rising waters there.

Gueydan Fire Chief Evans Bourque says there's an area in Vermilion Parish that's outside the levee system and residents there are urged to evacuate. Bourque says the evacuation affects about 60 to 70 homes. He didn't know how many people that included but said it was less than 100.

The flooding that struck the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas has left at least 13 people dead and damaged an estimated 40,000 homes.

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1:55 a.m.

Louisiana residents have begun clearing mud and debris from flood-damaged homes while trying to line up alternate housing as the scope of the catastrophe becomes clear.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visits Louisiana on Thursday to review the federal government's response to the flooding, which has damaged tens of thousands of homes and businesses.

More than 70,000 people have registered for individual assistance and more than 9,000 have filed flood insurance claims. Many are just trying to figure out where to live.

Keisha Taylor, a 37-year-old mother of four, has spent three nights in two different shelters since her family fled their flooded Baton Rouge apartment. She doesn't know how many more nights they'll be sleeping on cots inside a downtown arena.

The flooding that struck the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas has left at least 13 people dead.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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