Miss. firefighters aide in La. flood evacuations

The firefighters, who are certified swiftwater rescue technicians, left for Baton Rouge Saturday with two rescue boats and a pickup truck full of life-saving equipment

By Justin Mitchell
The Sun Herald

BATON ROUGE, La. — In less than two days, four Gulfport firefighters helped rescue more than 200 people — half of those from an apartment complex in Baton Rouge — as flooding continued to inundate parts of Louisiana, Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said.

The firefighters, who are certified swiftwater rescue technicians, left for Baton Rouge early Saturday morning with two rescue boats and a pickup truck full of life-saving equipment to help Louisiana officials rescue residents who were stranded or trapped due to flooding.

Beyerstedt said his crew arrived on Saturday afternoon and went to the Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center for assignment.

The crew’s first mission was to load their boats onto National Guard vehicles and trek through flooded streets to rescue the apartment complex tenants who were trapped, and Beyerstedt said they immediately went into a second mission once those people were safely evacuated.

“They worked all night and got to shut it down at 6:30 this morning, so they worked 23 hours straight in very difficult conditions,” Beyerstedt said.

On Sunday, the crew took their boats into Baton Rouge neighborhoods to help residents escape to safety. In some of the photos submitted by Beyerstedt, the team was working along streets where houses were only identifiable by roofs.

The Associated Press reports that three people are dead and thousands have been evacuated in southwest Louisiana as a result of the flooding caused by torrential downpours. The Baton Rouge Advocate published an interactive map that explores flooding across Baton Rouge.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency. AP reports Edwards toured flood-ravaged areas by helicopter on Saturday and warned residents it would be “too risky” to venture out.

Many residents used boats to evacuate their homes, while others were trapped on roadways as floodwater rushed in.

Interstate 12 was shut down from Baton Rouge to Tangipahoa Parish on Saturday, and police were rescuing people from cars stranded on I-12, AP reported.

The City of Gulfport is organizing efforts to bring supplies to Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

City Spokesperson Chris Vignes said residents saw that the swiftwater team deployed to Baton Rouge and starting calling to see what they could do to help.

The city will be collecting supplies at every fire station in Gulfport and at City Hall. City officials will deliver supplies on Wednesday, and anything collected after that will be delivered by Gulfport Fire Engineer Brandon Necaise.

Necaise said he will bring the supplies over on a 40-foot trailer.

Mayor Billy Hewes’ wife, Paula Hewes, has family in Baton Rouge and has helped spearhead the supply drive.

For a full list of items desired, visit the City of Gulfport’s Facebook page.

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