While the attention of the nation riveted on the Olympic games and the Presidential election, the nation’s worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy has been quietly unfolding in my home state of Louisiana.
At least 11 people have been killed in historic floods that ravaged the southern part of the state over the weekend. As many as 40,000 homes have been affected and 8,000 people remain in emergency shelters. The devastation is expected to grow as floodwaters move downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico.
In Livingston Parish, east of Baton Rouge, more than three quarters of the population have lost their homes completely.
For thousands of those in the flood zone, the week’s events are a traumatic flashback to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 a disaster from which the state still has not recovered.
Tragic weather events of this magnitude have been occurring more and more often. Though the current tragedy in Louisiana is classified as a 500-year-flood, calculated to have a 1% chance of occurring in any given year, it is the eighth such event in the United States in just over 12 months.
We are living in a new reality, and our elected leaders at the national, state and local level must respond with appropriate new emergency response policies and upgraded infrastructure.
Our hearts are with the people of Louisiana as they mourn their losses and begin to rebuild their lives.
Marc H. Morial is President and Chief Executive Officer, National Urban League