(Adds comments by Biden and Louisiana governor)
Miami, Aug 30 (EFE).- Rescue efforts and assessment of the devastation caused on the weekend by “catastrophic” Hurricane Ida, which left at least one person dead in Louisiana, began on Monday amid the desolation and power outages that are affecting more than a million customers and the entire city of New Orleans.
President Joe Biden said Monday that Ide caused “massive damage” during a virtual meeting with the governors and mayors of the areas affected by the storm, a meeting at which he announced that some 5,000 members of the National Guard had deployed to the zone and said that the federal government will help for “as long as it takes” the region to recover from Ida.
Biden confirmed the death of one person from Ida, which is considered to be one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to make landfall in the US, and he emphasized that the death toll will probably increase.
Along the same lines, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said that the death toll could increase “considerably” and that the impact of the storm means a long recovery period.
Meanwhile, the first images from the storm’s path have been terrible, showing people in boats moving along flooded streets, trees ripped up by the roots, fallen electrical wires, countless homes, offices and buildings destroyed, roadways closed due to debris and landslides in various areas.
Ida, which has weakened since making landfall about noon on Sunday and is now a tropical storm, is nevertheless continuing on its destructive path northwards after causing significant infrastructure damage in southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
Despite being downgraded, Ida still poses a serious risk of tornadoes, destructive wind and flooding, whether due to the heavy rainfall from the storm and/or from storm surge, which threatens both the coastal areas of Alabama and northwest Florida, according to forecasts from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.
The agency also warned that the areas affected by the storm up through mid-week will include not only the US Gulf Coast but also the Tennessee Valley, the central Appalachians and the northeastern US.
The city of New Orleans – which still has not shaken off the ghost of deadly Hurricane Katrina, which also made landfall on Aug. 29 exactly 16 years ago – is currently in the dark, with power outages that could take weeks to remedy.
The Entergy Louisiana power company, which serves more than a million customers in the state, announced Sunday that “catastrophic transmission damage” had affected eight transmission lines in New Orleans and the firm is working against the clock on Monday to restore service to as many people as possible.
Some local hospitals have reported that they had to manually pump air into Covid-19 patients’ lungs in New Orleans, where virtually everyone is dependent on generators for electricity and where there have been problems with the potable water supply due to the lack of electricity to run the pumps.
In all, more than a million customers in Louisiana and another 97,000 in Mississippi remain without electricity at present, according to the specialized Poweroutage.us Web site.
Gov. Edwards called for the public to remain in their homes while the damage is evaluated, warning that it is dangerous for people to be moving through the affected areas..
NOLA Ready, the emergency authority in New Orleans, has asked those people who evacuated before the storm not to return to their homes until new announcements are made that they can do so because of the huge amounts of debris – which could be dangerous – significant flooding and the blackouts.
The Red Cross established some 60 shelters in the area, which are housing about 2,500 people.
The storm was a test for the new containment levees around the low-lying city, and – for now, at least – they seem to have contained the water from Lake Pontchartrain, thus avoiding a repeat of the nightmare during and after Katrina where huge amounts of water breached the then-lower and weaker levees, causing the deaths of some 1,800 people.
Ida made landfall twice in the island-dotted area along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast packing winds of 240 kph (150 mph) and maintained its Category 4 strength for several hours dumping enormous amounts of rain in the area that resulted in extensive flooding.
Images of residents in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Monday showed people moving through the city along flooded streets in small boats.
On Sunday, the course of the Mississippi River actually changed its course for a short time due to the strength of the storm surge, which pushed a huge amount of water against the river’s current.