Disasters & Accidents

Louisiana reels amid major destruction, deaths, power blackouts from Ida

Miami, Aug 31 (EFE).- At least four deaths in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, extensive but as yet unquantified damage amid widespread flooding and uncertainty over when electric power will be restored to more than a million customers is the scenario besetting the Gulf Coast region two days after Hurricane Ida blasted its way ashore.

With members of the National Guard and the Red Cross deployed across the area and the help of other states like Texas and Florida, the priority search and rescue efforts are progressing and debris is being removed.

Southeastern Louisiana, which President Joe Biden placed under an emergency declaration on Sunday, has been the zone hardest hit by the flooding and heavy winds of the powerful Category 5 storm that destroyed a good portion of the local electrical grid, especially in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

The federal government’s disaster declaration facilitates the dispersal of aid and funding to house storm victims, repair homes, provide low-cost loans to cover property that was not insured, along with many other programs to aid affected businesses.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday is touring the areas affected by the hurricane, including the town of LaPlace, a community near New Orleans that is inundated by serious flooding.

The devastation in New Orleans, which is completely without electric power, is widespread and profound.

Many of the power poles and lines are under water or tangled in trees, some of which are half knocked over, and efforts to identify the electrical damage is progressing at a snail’s pace, meaning that it will take a long time to restore service.

Baking under dangerous heat and without the possibility of air conditioning, some people have gone out to clear debris and try to clean up the facades of their homes, while others have taken advantage of the scenario to loot destroyed homes.

The city is also lamenting the destruction of an emblematic building where a young Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) worked, lived and launched his music career.

In a video broadcast by local WIAT-TV, one can see the magnitude of the damage to the building where Armstrong worked at the tailor shop of the Karnofskys, a local Jewish family.

In the wake of the storm, only a pile of rubble remains at the site of the jazz landmark.

One positive thing resulting from Ida was the chance to test the efficacy of the main levee system guarding the New Orleans area from hurricanes, levees rebuilt after the deadly passage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Although wind measurements show that Ida was briefly a Category 5 storm, it made landfall twice as a strong Category 4, but by Tuesday it had weakened to a tropical depression and is over the Tennessee Valley.

Meanwhile, speculation about a rise in the price of gasoline has been rife and there have been calls from the authorities for the public to avoid panic that would worsen the situation.

The region of Louisiana that was hit by the storm processes and ships at least 15 percent of US oil and gasoline and authorities are evaluating the damage to local refineries, with at least nine of them partially or completely closed and 95 percent of the Gulf oil production paralyzed, according to CNN.

And the death toll continues to rise with four people known to have died as a result of the storm in Louisiana and Mississippi, especially in road accidents due to ruined infrastructure and flooding.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said he fears a spike in the death toll especially in heavily flooded areas like Grand Isle and Latiffe, where some residents resisted evacuating prior to the storm.

On Monday, two people died and 10 others were injured near Lucedale, Mississippi, in a multi-vehicle accident where drivers were trying to negotiate a huge hole in the highway some 20 feet wide and some 50 feet deep created by the hurricane.

Another fatality was a man who drowned on Monday while driving through floodwaters in New Orleans.

On Sunday, a 60-year-old man died when a tree fell on his home during the storm in Ascension Parish in the Baton Rouge metro area.

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