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Death toll from Ida rises as US police search for missing

New York: Police went door to door in search of more possible victims and drew up lists of the missing as the death toll rose to 49 on Friday in the catastrophic flooding set off across the northeast by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

The disaster underscored with heartbreaking clarity how vulnerable the US is to the extreme weather that climate change is bringing.

More than three days after the hurricane blew ashore in Louisiana, the storm’s rainy remains hit the northeast with surprising fury on Wednesday and Thursday, submerging cars, swamping subway stations and basement apartments and drowning scores of people in five states.

It overwhelmed urban drainage systems never meant to handle so much rain in such a short time – 7.6 centimetres in just an hour in New York.

Commuter train services north of New York City remained suspended or severely curtailed. In the Hudson Valley, train tracks were covered in a metre of mud. New York’s subways were running with delays or not at all.

Police stand guard near the remains of a house that exploded due to severe flooding.Credit:

In Philadelphia, part of the crosstown Vine Street Expressway remained under water as people in neighbourhoods along the swollen Schuylkill River started cleaning up and assessing the damage.

President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for New York and New Jersey.

The death toll was highest in New Jersey, where at least 25 people perished. Most drowned after their vehicles were caught in flash floods.

At least six people were still missing in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Floodwaters and a falling tree also took lives in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. In New York City, 11 people died when they were unable to escape rising water in their low-lying apartments.

After the storm, fires broke out in several New Jersey homes and businesses that were largely inaccessible to firefighters because of the floodwaters. Authorities said they suspect gas leaks triggered by the flooding fed the blazes.

The search for possible victims was not over.

“I don’t have an exact answer regarding how many people are actually missing, but we are going to continue to work hard throughout the day, throughout the evening to make sure we identify everyone’s location,” Rodney Harrison, New York City police chief of department, said Thursday.

AP

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