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People head for safety as rivers rise in Louisiana

By CNN Staff
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 1955 GMT (0355 HKT)
A flood gauge keeps track of rising waters Thursday in Louisiana.
A flood gauge keeps track of rising waters Thursday in Louisiana.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Three tornadoes touch down on Thursday; no injuries reported
  • Governor issues state of emergency for all of Louisiana
  • Town of Eunice has had more than 12 inches of rain in three days
  • Authorities have rescued dozens, and many others have evacuated

(CNN) -- Hundreds of people in Louisiana have been evacuated as widespread flooding threatens lives and homes.

Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon after thunderstorms drenched the state with as much as a foot of rain this week.

Eunice, a town in southwest Louisiana, has had 12.25 inches of rain since Tuesday, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service said.

Jonathan Brazzell said seven parishes -- Acadia, Avoyelles, Concordia, East Carroll, Evangeline, Livingston and St. Landry -- have had widespread flooding since the storms began.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

"The Mermentau River is well above flood stage and expected to go to major flood stage," he said.

St. Landry Parish spokeswoman Megan Vizena said 30% of the area was underwater.

Authorities in Franklin, near the Gulf of Mexico, evacuated 118 people after 7 inches of rain washed over some roads and bridges, the weather service said on its website.

In Acadia Parish, rescuers saved close to 80 people from rising water, including 20 at an oil well.

"We will have more evacuations tonight," Maxine Trahan, a spokeswoman with the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office said. "There were so many roads that were closed there were not enough signs (to warn residents).

An iReporter near St. Francisville, north of Baton Rouge, shot video of the rushing water of a creek under a bridge.

"I've personally never seen Bayou Sara this high, in this spot, in this short of a time span due to rain," said Bonnie Marquette, who is a film location scout.

The National Weather Service said at least two EF-1 tornadoes struck Thursday, one of which damaged 50 homes in St. Martin Parish. A third tornado, in Iberville Parish, was confirmed as well.

More rain was forecast for the weekend, the service said.

Watch encores of CNN's "The Coming Storms" at 8 and 11 p.m. ET Saturday

CNN's Sean Morris and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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