'Extremely dangerous' Hurricane Laura reaches Louisiana with wind speeds of 240 km/hr

Videos on social media already show the damage from the storm.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 27th 2020, 11:00 AM

2.55183460 (1) PA Images PA Images

HURRICANE LAURA POUNDED the Gulf Coast of the US with ferocious winds, torrential rain and rising seawater as it roared ashore in Louisiana as a life-threatening storm.

Videos on social media showed Laura’s winds battering a tall building in Lake Charles, blowing out windows as glass and debris flew to the ground.

Tony Guillory, president of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, described the scene early this morning over the phone as he hunkered down in a Lake Charles government building that was shaking from the storm.

“There are some people still in town and people are calling … but there is no way to get to them,” he said.

He said he hopes those stranded can be rescued later today, but he fears blocked roads, downed power lines and flooding could delay that process.

Authorities had ordered coastal residents to evacuate ahead of the incoming storm, but not everyone did in an area that was devastated by Hurricane Rita in 2005.

With more than 290,000 homes and businesses without power in Louisiana and neighbouring Texas, near-constant lightning provided the only light for some.

Officials said search and rescue missions would begin as soon as conditions allow, along with damage assessments.

The National Hurricane Centre said the storm, which intensified rapidly on Wednesday before ploughing into land with sustained winds of 240 kilometres per hour, came ashore at 1am local time as a Category 4 hurricane near Cameron, a 400-person community about 50 kilometres east of the Texas border.

It then quickly weakened to a Category 3 storm, but forecasters said “potentially catastrophic impacts will continue” as maximum sustained winds remain at 193 kilometres per hour.

Forecasters expect a weakened Laura to move north through Louisiana and cause widespread flash flooding in states far from the coast. After turning east and reaching the Atlantic Ocean, it could again become a tropical storm and threaten the north-east states.

Laura hit the US after killing nearly two dozen people on the island of Hispaniola – 20 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.

Laura is the seventh named storm to strike America this year, setting a new record for US landfalls by the end of August. The old record was six in 1886 and 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

The threat of such devastation posed a new disaster-relief challenge for a government already straining to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump earlier urged coastal residents to heed local officials.

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