By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott said swollen rivers will stay high for days after he toured areas inundated by floods that have hit the U.S. South in the past week, killing at least five people and damaging thousands of structures.
Abbott said he was told by officials in the southeast part of Texas that thousands of people have been forced from their homes. Parts of the region may not see flood waters begin to recede for days, he said after the tour that included flying over flooded areas by helicopter.
"I was struck by the size of it," Abbott told reporters from Orange County, near the Louisiana border. "When you're in the air you can see the massive size of it and how wide the water is. Water (is) just covering everything."
Near where Abbott was speaking, Interstate 10, one of the main east-west roadways across the southern part of the United States, has been closed for about two days because of flooding on a section along the Sabine River, which serves as the border between Texas and Louisiana.
Abbott said it may take as long as 10 days until the flooded section would be deemed safe for traffic, he said.
Flooding over the past week has been blamed for four deaths in Louisiana and one in Oklahoma. In Mississippi, flooding has left more than 600 homes with major damage, emergency officials there said.
Authorities in the state continued to search for two brothers reported missing a week ago after they went on a fishing trip on the Mississippi River, they said.
On Monday, officers discovered items belonging to one of the men but subsequent helicopter and boat searches have not turned up signs of the fishermen themselves, said Lieutenant Chris Reed of the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks department.
“We’re still holding out hope that we can find these guys and bring them to safety, Reed said.
In Texas, officials said the flooding has been taking its toll on residents.
"Newton County has been devastated," said Judge Truman Dougharty, the top elected official for Newton County, Texas.
"The number of homes under water and the people displaced, it's emotional, sir," he said at the news conference with Abbott. "We have a lot of people who need a lot of help."
(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Grant McCool)