United States: At least 46 people have died in flash floods from Hurricane Ida’s remnants

The death toll in floods across the United States has risen to 46.

New York City and New Jersey saw unprecedented levels of rainfall. Some residents became trapped in flooded basements and cars.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said at least 23 people had died in his state – most of them stuck in their vehicles as the waters rose.

At least 14 people lost their lives in New York State. Thirteen of them in New York City, including a two-year-old boy. Eleven of them drowned while trapped in their flooded basements, officials said.

Three people died near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while one person was killed in Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.

President Biden said the unprecedented flooding in the region, along with the destruction brought by Hurricane Ida to Louisiana and Mississippi and wildfires in the West, were “yet another reminder that these extreme storms in the climate crisis are here”.

He said he would be pushing Congress for action on his Build Back Better plan, which would see “historic investment” in infrastructure, including modernising roads and bridges and improving energy grids, water and sewage systems.

“This destruction is everywhere,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death and we are all in this together. This is one of the great challenges of our time but I’m confident we will meet it.”

The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but an increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above and make more energy available to drive hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2°C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

‘Niagara Falls level flooding on streets’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticised weather experts, saying their forecasts were being “made a mockery of in a matter of minutes”. He said he had been warned to expect between three and six inches of rain over the course of the day. However a record 3.15 inches fell in Central Park in just one hour.

“We need to start communicating to people that things will be much worse in literally every situation,” he said.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said: “We did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level of water to the streets of New York.”

In New Jersey, a tornado flattened the state’s largest dairy farm, ripping roofs of buildings and toppling several large silos.

Many cows were trapped under fallen sheds and some died, the owners of Wellacrest Farm wrote on their Facebook page. “Along with the devastating loss of homes in our neighbourhoods – we, as a community, suffered a great loss with the destruction of our farm.”

Many of New York City’s subway lines remain closed after social media pictures showed water gushing into the underground stations.

Other footage showed cars floating down flooded roads, with cries of “help” being heard from inside.

Passengers on trains, planes and buses found themselves stuck for hours without moving as the flooding made travelling impossible.