At least seven people died in New York after last night’s sudden torrential rains, which led to massive flooding, police said.
New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have declared a state of emergency after the floods, which followed Hurricane Ida and could affect nearly 20 million people.
“I’m declaring a state of emergency to help New Yorkers affected by tonight’s storm,” Hochul tweeted after Ida, which hit the southern US on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, caused tornadoes and flooding as it headed north.
“Seek refuge NOW. Flying debris will be dangerous to those caught homeless. Seek a lower floor and stay away from windows,” New York City’s emergency information committee wrote on Twitter.
On social networks, several images showing the flooded subway and flooded streets in the city were shared:
The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, declared a state of emergency in the city last night after rains caused by the storm. For him, this is a “historic climatic event”.
Virtually all New York subway lines had their circulation interrupted after the storm caused by hurricane Ida, which arrived three days ago in Louisiana, in the south of the United States, causing floods and tornadoes in some northeastern states of the country, such as York and New Jersey, where a state of emergency was also enacted, as well as Pennsylvania.
In New York, the circulation of most vehicles was interrupted until 5 am. According to RFI correspondent in New York, Loubna Anaki, more than 200 mm of water fell in some places, the equivalent of a month of rainfall. The rain also flooded the garages of some New Yorkers, he says, who were knee-deep in water.
Many people were left with no way to return home, with the closure of roads, tunnels or expressways. A US Open tennis game was stopped.
In addition, hundreds of flights were canceled at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK airports. The floods blocked major boulevards in different areas of the city, including Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens.
Situation is chaotic in Louisiana
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, in the southern United States, last Sunday as a category 4 — almost 5 — and winds peaking at 250 km/h. Many houses were completely destroyed and areas are still under water. One of the biggest problems today is the lack of electricity and fuel. Much of Louisiana suffers from power shortages and more than 1 million people in New Orleans are still without power.
Tens of thousands more also remain in the dark in the capital, Baton Rouge, which is further down the center. The situation brings an avalanche of problems: temperatures are high and many people with health problems do not have the energy to turn on medical equipment. It is also not possible to store food and many supermarkets are closed, as generators are insufficient.
Also, the stations are out of gas. Seven refineries were left without production and this makes it impossible to supply the generators. Hospitals also suffer from power shortages and are on the edge—Louisiana is one of the states with the highest rate of covid-19 transmission.
The forecast is bleak. Officials say that in some regions, it can take weeks or more than a month for power grids to be re-established. There is also a lack of clean water and food distribution services cannot reach some areas, which are isolated. There is no telephone network, cell phone and internet, and even the sewer pipes are saturated.
Authorities have yet to reach many areas where access is impossible. Trails of destruction are everywhere, many trees have fallen, streets are blocked and garbage is strewn everywhere. Grand Isle, a small island famous for beaches in the Gulf of Mexico, has 100% of the houses uninhabitable and 40% have been totally destroyed. The forecast is that the reconstruction will take 3 to 5 years.
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana on the very day the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina turned 16 years old. Although Ida’s strength was greater, the first big difference is the number of victims. More than 1,800 people died during Katrina, 1,600 in Louisiana alone.
So far, the total number of deaths caused by Ida has not been released, as there are still isolated communities. Two deaths have been confirmed in Louisiana.
In Mississippi, where heavy rains partially collapsed a road, two people died and 10 were injured, three of them in critical condition, police said.
Two electricians repairing storm damage died in Alabama, according to NBC News.
Another person died Wednesday in Maryland, where Ida, downgraded to a tropical storm, also caused massive flooding.
The winds from the Ida hit the ground harder than the Katrina – around 250km/h, compared to 200km/h 16 years ago.
But the storm caused by Katrina was much bigger. Because New Orleans is surrounded by water and much of the city is below sea level, a series of levees keep residents safe. 16 years ago, that system was overloaded.
In recent years, $14 billion has been invested in the city’s flood protection system. The system worked, so in New Orleans the flooding was less, but not in neighboring, less populated cities, which are outside the protection scheme and are still isolated.
There is still no exact estimate of the damage, but a report by the UN Meteorological Agency says Katrina in 2005 cost nearly $164 billion in losses and Ida could also reach that number, although it was less fatal.
* With information from AFP and RFI