Hurricane Ida’s death toll continued to rise on Sunday, with many in the US northeast holding out hope for people missing in the flood waters, while nearly 600,000 people in Louisiana continued to lack power a week after the storm made landfall.
Ida slammed into Louisiana on Aug. 29 as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 240kph. The latest death toll there rose to at least 13 people on Sunday.
The storm weakened as it moved north but still unleashed flash flooding on the East Coast that killed at least 50 more people, according to updated numbers on Sunday.
Photo: EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE
Ida’s record-breaking rainfall of 7.8cm per hour on Wednesday, recorded in New York City’s Central Park, sent walls of water cascading through businesses, public transportation systems and 1,200 homes, causing more than US$50 million in damage, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.
“The human toll was tremendous,” Hochul said. “One woman wept in my arms, an 89-year-old woman. She had nothing left after living in that home for over 40 years.”
New York had 17 confirmed deaths, four in suburban Westchester County and the rest in New York City, where nearly all the victims were trapped in illegal basement apartments that are among the last remaining affordable options for low-income residents in the area, the governor’s spokesperson said.
In New Jersey, there were 27 confirmed storm deaths and four people still missing, a spokesperson for Governor Phil Murphy said.
Among the missing were two college students last seen in Passaic, New Jersey, on Wednesday as Ida’s historic deluge was reported to have swept them away in the raging Passaic River.
Other storm deaths were reported in Connecticut with at least one dead, Pennsylvania with at least four dead and Maryland with at least one dead.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards increased the number of storm deaths in his Gulf Coast state to 13.
At least four of those people died in Louisiana of carbon monoxide poisoning from power generators, officials said.
Amid stifling heat and humidity, more than 591,000 homes and businesses in the state lacked electricity as of Sunday. About 1.2 million had originally lost power.
Ida also paralyzed US Gulf of Mexico oil production, and 88 percent of crude oil output and 83 percent of natural gas production remained suspended as of Sunday.
The Grand Classica, a cruise ship that will house 1,500 workers trying to restore power, departed from the Port of Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday and is due to arrive in New Orleans on Tuesday.
An ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has appeared in Ida’s wake. Divers at the site have identified the apparent source as a 30cm diameter pipeline displaced from a trench on the ocean floor that broke open.
Talos Energy, the Houston-based company currently paying for the cleanup, said in a statement issued on Sunday that the broken pipeline does not belong to it.
The company said that it is working with the US Coast Guard, and other agencies at the state and federal level, to coordinate the response and identify the owner of the ruptured pipeline.
Two additional 10cm pipelines were also identified in the area that are open and apparently abandoned.
The company’s statement did not make clear if oil was leaking from the two smaller pipelines, but satellite images appeared to show at least three different slicks in the same area, the largest drifting more than 19km eastward along the Gulf coast.
Aerial photos showed a miles-long brown and black oil slick spreading about 3km south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The broken pipe is in relatively shallow water, at about 10m of depth.
Talos said the rate of oil appearing on the surface had slowed dramatically and no new heavy black crude had been seen in the past day. So far, the spill appears to have remained out to sea and has not affected the Louisiana shoreline. There is not yet any estimate for how much oil was in the water.
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