At least 46 people have been killed so far in the devastating flash floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in the New York area, which officials have blamed on climate change.
The unprecedented and destructive rainfall has crippled the northeast US in recent days, with maximum impact felt in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia suburbs.
The carnage comes after Hurricane Ida barreled ashore Sunday in Louisiana packing 150 mph winds.
The situation has prompted a flash flood emergency warning for New York City, as the flooding turned streets into rivers and shut down subway services, according to reports.
The rain and flooding was so intense that it quickly overwhelmed major infrastructure, turned thoroughfares to raging rivers, subways gushed like geysers, water filled buses up to the seats and Newark Airport flooded, a report in The Weather Channel said.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled at LaGuardia and JFK airports, as well as at Newark, where video showed a terminal inundated by rainwater.
“We're all in this together. The nation is ready to help,” US President Joe Biden said ahead of his trip to the southern state of Louisiana on Friday, where the hurricane earlier flattened buildings.
“Our hearts ache for the lives lost in last night's storm. Please keep them and their loved ones in your thoughts today,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a briefing Thursday morning. “They were our fellow New Yorkers and to their families, your city will be there for you in the days ahead.”
Blasio announced that the death toll in the New York City area has risen to 13.
“Among the people MOST at risk during flash floods here are those living in off-the-books basement dwellings that don't meet the safety codes necessary to save lives,” lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “These are working class, immigrant, and low-income people & families”.
As a result, among the people MOST at risk during flash floods here are those living in off-the-books basement dwellings that don’t meet the safety codes necessary to save lives.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 2, 2021
These are working class, immigrant, and low-income people & families.
At least 23 people have died in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy told reporters on Thursday, adding that the majority of these deaths were individuals who got caught in their vehicles.
In what has been described as a “historic weather event”, the flooding has closed major roads across New Jersey and New York boroughs, including Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens, forcing the fire department to rescue hundreds of people.
“I'm 50 years old and I've never seen that much rain ever,” Metodija Mihajlov, whose basement of his Manhattan restaurant was flooded with three inches of water, was quoted as saying by the AFP.
“It was like living in the jungle, like tropical rain. Unbelievable. Everything is so strange this year,” he said.
It is rare for such storms to strike America's northeastern seaboard and comes as the surface layer of oceans warms due to climate change.
The warming is causing cyclones to become more powerful and carry more water, posing an increasing threat to the world's coastal communities, scientists have said.
“Global warming is upon us and it's going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it,” Democratic senator Chuck Schumer was quoted as saying by the AFP.
“Woe is us if we don't recognize these changes are due to climate change. Woe is us if we don't do something about it quickly,” Schumer said on Thursday at a press conference with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D).
The New York senator said the climate and resilience provisions in the infrastructure packages currently before Congress could “stop the global warming or at least reduce its awful effects on this country.”
“When you get two record rainfalls in a week, it’s not just coincidence,” he said. “Global warming is upon us and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it, and that’s why it’s so important to pass… the infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill.”