United States: Hurricane Ida death toll rises as recovery efforts continue

The death toll from Hurricane Ida surpassed 50 people in the northeastern United States, while authorities in Louisiana continue to struggle to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people.

Seventeen deaths were confirmed in New York state, four in Westchester County and the remainder were in New York City, a spokesperson for Governor Kathy Hochul said on Sunday.

Nearly all the victims in New York City, which was hard-hit when the remains of Ida brought flash flooding and heavy rains to the area last week, were trapped in illegal basement apartments that are among the last remaining affordable options for low-income residents.

The storm’s record-breaking rainfall sent walls of water cascading through businesses, public transportation systems and 1,200 homes, causing more than $50 million in damages, Hochul said.

In New Jersey, there were 27 confirmed storm deaths and four people still missing, said a spokesperson for Governor Phil Murphy. More deaths in the northeast were reported in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on August 29, bringing extreme winds that downed trees and power lines, and cut power to more than one million people across the state.

The storm-related death toll in Louisiana rose to 13 on Sunday, the state health department said on Twitter, after a 74-year-old man was reported dead “due to heat during an extensive power outage”.

More than 630,000 homes and businesses remained without power on Sunday across southeast Louisiana, according to the state Public Service Commission.

Many Louisiana residents continue to face food, water and gas shortages while battling heat and humidity a week after Ida struck.

Fully restoring electricity to some southeastern parishes could take until the end of the month, Entergy President and CEO Phillip May said on Saturday.

Ida damaged or destroyed at least 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined. More than 5,200 transformers failed and nearly 26,000 spans of wire were down.

US President Joe Biden visited Louisiana on Friday to assess the damage from the storm, pledging more federal assistance to help the state rebuild.

“There is no substitute for seeing the devastation on the ground,” Governor John Bel Edwards said on Twitter on Sunday morning, thanking the president for his visit.

“Louisiana faces a long road to recovery ahead, and we appreciate the aid and support of our federal partners.”