US-based Nigerians fret as raging floods submerge states, kill over 50

In the aftermath of the deadly hurricane Ida that swept through major cities in the United States, torrential flooding has devastated lives and property in the affected states.

Reports noted that Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the US Gulf Coast, disconnecting more than 600,00 people from running water, knocked out power to over 1.3 million homes in the northeast state of Louisiana, one of the worst-hit states. Some Nigerians caught in the web of the incident are trying to get over it days after.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida moved away from the Southeastern states, and with deadly precision barrelled battered some other states such as New Jersey and New York with tornadoes, record rain and flooding, and power outages that left the areas deluged and under states of emergency.

Nigerians worry, fear

For some Nigerians in the US caught in the raving flood, the incident re-enact images of some of their flood experiences while in Nigeria.

One of them who lives in New Orleans, a city in the state of Louisiana, Collins Ikechukwu, said since he moved over to the US with his family two years ago, he had never experienced such flooding.

He said, “The amount of rainfall in the last few days and the devastating flooding it has caused reminds me of how Lekki gets flooded during the rainy season. Even though this part of the world has better drainage than what we have in Nigeria, the downpour was more than any protective system put in place could withstand.”

Ikechukwu stated that before the impact of Hurricane Ida; the state officials issued warnings to residents, advising them to brace for the impact of the hurricane, especially those in areas prone to flooding.

He said, “Immediately the warning was put out, I started making plans to evacuate my family from the state. By Friday last week, I had successfully moved with my family to the house of a friend resident in Florida.

“Thankfully, I did so on time as flights were cancelled out of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport due to the downpour and as anyone can imagine, it contributed to long security lines on Saturday and prompting airport officials to ask that only confirmed passengers go to the airport. People in a rush to flee the state opted for car rides but they too were met with bumper-to-bumper traffic that delayed drive times by several hours. The announcement of the hurricane being upgraded to a Category 4 on Sunday morning further worsened the frenzy of residents to leave the state for safe spaces.”

He added that he had not been able to reach some of his friends and colleagues in Louisiana as many of them had been disconnected from power by the downpour and flooding.

“I hope everyone still in the affected areas is safe. Every time I see news posts of another body found, I say a short prayer hoping none of my friends are still stuck there.”

Ikechukwu further said that he feared the level of devastation he might find when he and his family head back home after the flooding subsides, saying he was happy that he and his family were safe.

“I’m grateful to God that I heeded the warning and left with my family. Even if I lose some of my property, I’m confident that as long as I am alive, I can recover them all and even more,” he said.

Another Nigerian resident in the state of New York, Yemi Adebulu, stated that on Tuesday last week, the National Weather Service issued a prediction that some states would witness heavy rainfall from what was the remnant of Hurricane Ida. He added that in the weather maps released, one of the reddest portions — indicating severe rainfall and a high probability of flooding—hovered directly over New York City.

Adebulu said, “I immediately started panicking. My fears were worsened when I saw the preparations my colleagues at work were making to brave the predicted rainfall and flooding.

“It was my first time experiencing anything like this since I moved to the US so I was a bit slow in responding to the warnings. Luckily, a colleague helped me get some of the essentials I might need while holed up at home.”

He stated that other than the power outage that affected some parts of the state, he was lucky to be unharmed and his property safe from the flood as well.

“I’ve been following the news on my phone which I have kept charged using a power bank and I am aware the death toll has been increasing in the state. This amount of rain and flooding is unprecedented in these parts as I can see that many of the residents panicked when the warning was issued.”

He added that even with the terrible weather condition and the state of the roads, rescue operations were still being carried out to evacuate residents trapped in the rubble.

Adebulu added, “This is one thing the Nigerian government can put into practice as well; victims of flooding and other natural disasters shouldn’t be abandoned to their fate. Emergency services should be put out once the need arises to avoid preventable deaths”

A Nigerian living in Maryland identified only as Collins said he was away on a business trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, when he heard the news of the devastating floods. He stated, “I had to hurriedly reach out to my family but I was told that they were in a safe place. The situation is not too bad there unlike in Louisiana. But I must say that I am afraid and still dread the damage. I moved to the US in 2018 and have never witnessed this kind of situation.’’

Also, another Nigerian, Mr Debo Ilori, who lives in Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, said he had yet to get over the shock of the incident which he said, affected many including those who didn’t heed to warning.’

He told our correspondent briefly, “I am safe but the impact is much. I hope to get over the shock and fear early enough.’’

Devastating floods

The New York governor, Kathy Hochul, describing the terrible event, said it had been heartbreaking being in New York City after the impact of Hurricane Ida.

“It’s been a hard day for New Yorkers, to not just to deal with the weather but to wake up and know that we lost some of our fellow citizens, simply because they weren’t able to get out of their car, weren’t able to get out of their home,” Hochul told CNN Thursday night. “So it’s heartbreaking being here in the city of New York.”

Hochul reiterated the need to do a full assessment of what led to the city’s response to the storm.

“Once we get our full assessment done, I’m going to be demanding answers,” Hochul said. “I want to know who knew what, when and what could have been done differently- because New Yorkers deserve to know what we’re doing to learn from this event and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

In Pennsylvania, about 41 passengers were rescued from a school bus trapped in floodwaters from the remnants of Ida on Wednesday in Shaler Township, officials said. Local police and fire officials responded to the school bus headed for Shaler Area High School and supervised the evacuation of those on board, Shaler Area School District spokesperson Bethany Baker said in a statement.

The Cherry City Volunteer Fire Company said it performed a water rescue by boat at approximately 6:50 a.m. and evacuated every passenger on the bus without injury.

The school district cancelled school for elementary and primary students due to rain and “worsening road conditions,” according to a Facebook post on Wednesday morning. Middle and high school schedules proceeded as usual. The rescued students were transported safely to high school, Baker said.

Videos on social media showed cars submerged on highways and water pouring into subway stations and homes after a downpour shattered rainfall records and prompted an unprecedented flash flood emergency for various cities.

The videos were reminiscent of the flooding witnessed in parts of Nigeria, Europe, and China in July that claimed more than 200 people in Europe with hundreds still missing and over 300 deaths in China, destroying property worth billions of dollars in its wake.

Hundreds of stranded residents in the US states caught in the floods had to be rescued from cars, subway trains, and in some cases, flooded apartments. The deadly floods have so far claimed over 50 lives – including that of a Louisiana man attacked and killed by an alligator – and destroyed property worth billions of dollars. US Today reported that at least 46 people died Wednesday and Thursday according to state and local officials. It noted that 16 people died in New York, five in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland and one in Connecticut.

Besides, Reuters noted that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Friday said the state had confirmed an additional two deaths overnight, bringing its total to 25. It added that Murphy disclosed that at least six people were still missing, meaning the death toll would likely climb higher. According to the news website, at least nine deaths were reported in Louisiana.

According to an American media company that provides commercial weather forecasting services, AccuWeather, the total damage and economic loss from Hurricane Ida could reach $70 – $80bn.

The National Weather Service continued a heat advisory for dozens of communities in southeast Louisiana, as well as southeast and southern Mississippi, warning of temperatures that could feel as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit, further exacerbating the difficulties of emergency operatives in carrying out rescue operations.

The Philadelphia fire commissioner, Adam Thiel, in a news briefing, said, “We are still doing water rescues across the city; we’ve done that for the past 15 hours now continually. We know that the flooding reached levels that have not been seen in 100 years,” he added. “And potentially this will be a record-breaking flood.”

A New York Senator Chuck Schumer, echoing similar sentiment said the US must do more to address climate change.

“When you get to record rainfalls in a week, it’s not just coincidence, when you get all the changes that we have seen in weather, that’s not a coincidence,” Schumer said during a news briefing.

“Global warming is upon us and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it,” he said.

According to the New York Times, the US President Joe Biden pledged to help those affected by the storm, promising to visit Louisiana on Friday to survey some of the damage.

He said, “My message to the people in the Gulf Coast who I am going to visit: we are here for you and we’re making sure the response and recovery are equitable so those hit hardest can get the resources they need and are not left behind.’’

Biden said the flooding in Louisiana was less than the region experienced during Hurricane Katrina, crediting federal investments in the area’s levee system. “It held, it was strong, it worked,” he said during remarks at the White House.

He added, “We know that there is much to be done in this response on our part. We need to get power restored. We need to get more food, fuel and water deployed.”

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