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Biden promises emergency relief after Ida batters eastern US

September 2, 2021

The president outlined a comprehensive plan to provide shelter and care to the thousands affected by Hurricane Ida's damage. At least 26 people died as the remants of the storm hit the northeast.

man and dog walking in floods
Severe flooding hit numerous states in the US Northeast, including in Rhode IslandImage: David Goldman/AP Photo/picture alliance

At least 26 deaths were reported as heavy rain from Hurricane Ida battered the US Atlantic coast from Maryland to New England early Thursday.

In televised remarks on Thursday, US President Joe Biden detailed the relief plans to be carried out by federal emergency agency FEMA, the National Guard, and the American Red Cross.

"The nation is here to help," Biden said, promising emergency shelters and medical care for those affected from the Gulf coast states to the northeast. The president will be traveling to Louisiana on Friday, where Ida caused more death and destruction earlier this week.

Biden also noted that the increase in extreme weather events, such as the hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornadoes that have all hit the US in recent weeks are a reminder that climate change is a very real threat. However, he also vowed to get the oil refineries on the Gulf coast back up and running as quickly as possible.

The aftermath of a tornado in Maryland
Tornadoes tore through several east coast states in the aftermath of IdaImage: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York City underwater

The rains caused floods and sent New York City into a state of emergency, as the storm carried into New England with threats of more tornadoes. New York's FDR Drive, a major artery on the east side of Manhattan, along with the Bronx River Parkway, were underwater by late Wednesday evening.

Subway stations and tracks were inundated to the point where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service, and videos posted online showed subway riders standing on seats in cars filled with water. Streets and apartments were under up to 1 meter  (3 feet) of water in some places, and more than 5,000 homes were left without power.

'Enduring historic weather event'

"We're enduring an historic weather event tonight with record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.

The alert marked the first-ever alert of flash-flood emergencies in the region, an alert level reserved for "exceedingly rare situations when a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon.''

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy urged residents to stay at home and stay off the roads, many of which were badly damaged and filled with dangerous debris.

"It is not safe to drive," Murphy wrote on Twitter. "Our crews are working to clear and open roads,and we need everyone to stay off them so crews can safely do their job."

Destructive tornadoes

The city also implemented a temporary travel ban for all non-emergency vehicles. Earlier Wednesday, the storm hit states including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with at least two tornadoes, heavy winds and rains. Photos showed homes reduced to rubble, while the roof of a US Postal Service building collapsed in New Jersey.

The National Weather Service had predicted flooding from what remained of Hurricane Ida, saying steep terrain and even city streets were particularly vulnerable to a band of severe weather that stretched to Massachusetts, where tornado warnings were issued early Thursday.

Tropical Storm Henri hit the region a little more than a week ago, causing flooding and making the cities more vulnerable to this week's set of weather events.

lc,es/sms,wmr (dpa, AP)