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Louisiana governor confirms 1 death after Ida, expects toll to 'go up considerably'

The Category 4 hurricane has caused catastrophic damage after hitting coastal Louisiana on Sunday.
/ Source: TODAY

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards expects the confirmed death toll from Hurricane Ida "to go up considerably" after confirming that one person has died in the storm.

The Category 4 hurricane slammed into coastal Louisiana on Sunday, cutting off power to more than 1 million homes and businesses with heavy flooding and 150-mph winds.

"We have one confirmed death," Edwards told Hoda Kotb on TODAY Monday. "I don't want to tell you what I'm hearing because what I'm hearing points to a lot more than that. They're not yet confirmed and I really don't want to go there. I will leave it here: I am certain that as the day goes on, we will have more deaths."

He added that he heard reports of apartment buildings that partially collapsed during the storm and it was too dangerous for first responders to reach the scene at the height of the storm.

"That's happening now, and we're going to be getting information throughout the day that I fully expect the confirmed death total to go up considerably," he said.

The main focus on Monday morning is helping those whose homes are damaged to the point where they are uninhabitable as well as others in immediate need.

"We're still very much in the search and rescue, the life-saving mode, and there's a very robust effort, but there's so much debris, power lines and trees and other debris in the roadways that it hasn't been easy getting to them," Edwards said.

The National Guard has been mobilized, and there are 34 aircraft, about 195 high-water vehicles and 73 boats involved in the search and rescue operation, according to Edwards.

Edwards also cited ensuring the continued function of hospitals in southeast Louisiana as a crucial priority as they try to operate through electric outages and water issues.

He estimated that there are about 2 million people without power, including the city of New Orleans, and said there are more than 20,000 linemen either already in the region or arriving on Monday to help restore power. Edwards said all eight of the transmission lines that serve the New Orleans area failed during the storm, but he estimates the power will return "relatively soon."

The one bit of good news is that the area appears to have avoided the catastrophic flooding that accompanied the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"The biggest thing that happened in a positive way is the levee system really worked," Edwards said, adding, "The situation in New Orleans, as bad is it is without the power, would be so much worse. All you have to do is go back 16 years (to Katrina) and you kind of get a glimpse of what that could've been like. ...

"The damage is really catastrophic. This storm packed a very powerful punch. It delivered the surge that was forecasted, the wind that was forecasted and the rain, and so we're going to be responding to this hurricane for quite a while, and then we're going to be recovering from it for many months."