Thirty-one reported injured after tornadoes pummel Louisiana

Cleanup crews remove power poles from Chef Menteur highway in New Orleans East after a series of tornados tore through the city and other parts of Louisiana, leaving trees, power lines, homes and businesses leveled, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., February 8, 2017.  REUTERS/Ben Depp

US-LOUISIANA-TORNADO:Thirty-one reported injured after tornadoes pummel Louisiana

By Bryn Stole

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) - Some 31 people were reported injured after six tornadoes tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, pounding across highways and streets and leaving trees, power lines and homes leveled by Wednesday morning.

Federal and state damage assessment teams on Wednesday began working to see if Louisiana can qualify for federal assistance, Mike Steele, communications director for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said.

Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency throughout Louisiana, as search and rescue teams scoured the landscape for survivors from Tuesday's tornadoes.

"The width of the devastation was unlike any that I have seen before," Edwards told a news conference on Tuesday. "When you see it from the air you're even more impressed that so few people were injured and that nobody's life was lost."

The storm system battered New Orleans and suburban Baton Rouge, marking the fourth time in a year the state has been jolted by natural disasters.

A string of tornadoes struck in February 2016 and four people died in widespread floods in March. Louisiana was then devastated by major flooding in August, when more than 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in 20 parishes, or territorial districts, marking the state's worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One twister carved out a swath of destruction about two miles (3 km) long and about half a mile (1 km) wide, affecting an area with 5,000 properties, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

"It's devastating and a lot of families have lost everything that they have," Landrieu said.

Thirty-one injuries have been reported, according to the mayor's office. Six of them were moderate or severe injuries, and there have been no reported fatalities, the office said in a statement.

At least 8,100 customers were without power in the New Orleans area by early Wednesday, according to Entergy New Orleans Inc . About 150 workers from the energy company assisted in recovery efforts on Wednesday.

Nancy Malone, communications director for the Red Cross of Louisiana, said damage was reported in about six parishes, where the Red Cross was assisting first responders.

"While this was not expected, communities in southeast Louisiana have been affected numerous times in the last 12 months," Malone said. "Here we are again."

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Mike Cooper and Irene Klotz; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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