Days after Hurricane Laura slammed into Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity on Saturday, with the situation especially dire in Lake Charles, a city near the coastline where nearly all 80,000 residents have been without power for days and many have no running water.
President Trump arrived on Saturday afternoon in the troubled city, where residents were just beginning to pick up the pieces after the hurricane that made landfall on Thursday as a Category 4 storm.
Mr. Trump walked along streets where downed power lines were strung along the ground and several large trees had crushed roofs. He briefly chatted with a group of men who were using chain saws to cut and remove one large tree that had fallen across a road.
“We have water in some locations, but it’s a trickle,” Mayor Nic Hunter said in a telephone interview, describing an overwhelmed water system that has frustrated residents and public officials alike.
“We’re all hot, we’re all sweaty, we all want a shower,” Sheriff Tony Mancuso of the Calcasieu Parish, which includes Lake Charles, said at a news conference on Friday.
More than an inconvenience, though, the electrical outages have been deadly, as several people who turned to generators to power refrigerators, lights and air-conditioners have been overcome with fumes.
At least seven people have been killed by carbon monoxide from generators, including four members of a family found dead in a home in Lake Charles. A fifth member of that family was taken to a hospital. Their generator was located in a garage and the deadly gas was able to seep into the house through a garage door that was left cracked open, the mayor said.
Another man in the Calcasieu Parish died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, as did an 84-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman in the same home in Allen Parish, to the northeast, said health officials, who warned people never to place generators in homes or in closed garages.
The city’s largest hospital, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Health System, whose phone lines were down, had to evacuate all patients to other hospitals and was operating only its emergency room. The hospital said on its website that pregnant mothers should leave the area because the hospital was not providing obstetric services except in emergencies.
The power failure in Lake Charles could continue for weeks, the mayor said, and people have been racing to buy more gasoline to provide power to their homes.
“This is just way, way worse than Rita,” said Brett Geymann, 58, a former state lawmaker who lives in Moss Bluff, a suburb of Lake Charles, referring to the powerful hurricane that struck the area in 2005. He has been running a generator to operate his family’s refrigerator. “There is just destruction everywhere.”
In addition to the deaths tied to generators, five other people have died in Louisiana, four from falling trees and one person who drowned. In Texas, where Mr. Trump was scheduled to visit later on Saturday, at least three deaths have been tied to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
Mr. Geymann said residents were increasingly worried about the lack of water as they contemplated not having flushable toilets or being able to wash their hands in a sink, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus is “not even an issue anymore for most people,” said Mr. Geymann, who has let about five people stay with him after their homes were destroyed.
During a meeting with John Bel Edwards, the state’s Democratic governor, and several other officials, Mr. Trump said it was important to visit Louisiana because it had been “a tremendous state for me.”
He said that the storm had been “tremendously powerful,” noting that it made landfall as a more powerful storm than Hurricane Katrina.
He struck a reassuring note with Mr. Hunter, the mayor, saying, “You took a big punch, but you’ll be back.”
Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.