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Night fell on Wednesday, September 1, New Yorkers were going home, some went by car and others used public transportation, but a nightmare that would last for hours began from nowhere: the flood caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
The tragic images, spread throughout the internet, show how water flooded homes, closed streets, leaving people trapped in cars, collapsed subway stations, canceled flights, and all public or private transportation suspended.
High-density neighborhoods in New York had an awful time. Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx for instance were hit hard by heavy storms.
43 Dead and Hundreds of Residents Stranded in the Subway
According to The New York Times, of the 43 official deaths, fifteen people died in New York, thirteen of them in NYC, most of whom were found in their Queens and Brooklyn homes. They were between the ages of 2 and 86 years.
The severe storm took hundreds of citizens by surprise and there was logical desperation to get home. During the heavy rains, dozens of Latinos decided to cross the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge from Manhattan to Queens. To get an idea of the distance between each side, this bridge spans more than 3,700 feet, that is, just over a kilometer.
A Hispanic resident of Queens, who had to walk across the bridge in the middle of the storm, told El American that he couldn’t afford a “$150 Uber ride to get home” and that “the buses are not passing.” Ultimately, risking his life to get to the safety of his home.
Other people had a bit more luck as Ida’s remains caught them off guard, but at least in safe houses. “The truth is that last night the storm surprised us, it rained a lot and for several hours, but at least we were at the house at that time and there I began to see that many acquaintances were publishing videos and photos of the storm while they were on the street and I realized that the situation was really complicated,” said Christian, a young Paraguayan who has lived in New York for years told El American on September 2.
Hispanics Stranded in the Subway
All NYC subways and buses were abruptly suspended. According to CNN, “The subway system flooded in 46 locations, about 65 buses were blocked or stuck and two Metro North Line trains were stranded. In addition, all New Jersey Transit rail service, except for the Atlantic City Rail Line, were suspended due to the flooding.”
Javier Guzmán, a worker in New York City told El American “Nobody alerted that public transportation was going to be suspended. We were waiting [for the train] from 11:00 pm to 4:00 am. In the beginning, Uber wanted to charge us between $150 to $180, but it later lowered the price a bit, so we were able to get home.”
Guzmán criticized the city government for the lack of warning: “I think that despite the resources that the City has, the mayor and the governor do not focus on the most essential thing, which is to take care of the city and alert of us before any emergency.”
A cook, who preferred not to be identified, told El American that he had to walk in the middle of heavy rain from 40th Street in Manhattan to the South Bronx. That is approximately 3 hours, more than 10 kilometers.
Dozens had no choice but to sleep in the train stations. Maria Medina, a cook who works in Manhattan, told El American “When I returned [to Manhattan] the following day, on 42nd Street, in Grand Central where the 4,5, and 6 trains are, there were a lot of people sleeping because there were no trains to the Bronx. The Ubers’ prices had skyrocketed—so people had to sleep there.”
Roads and Infrastructures Flooded
“The situation is still difficult, there are many roads that are still with water and had to be closed, it is still a danger in various parts of the state and my family and I decided to take shelter today and not go to work for fear that we would stay stuck at some point, or that we cannot return due to lack of train service… the only thing we can do is wait to see how the situation is with the passing of the hours,” Christian told El American, who was able to attend his regular job as a bricklayer on September 3, once the emergency subsided a bit.
Now, not everyone had the same luck. There were heartbreaking and tragic stories. The Times revealed one of them in one of its articles on the floods.
“In Woodside, Queens, Deborah Torres said she heard the desperate pleas from the basement of three members of a family, including a toddler. As the water rushed into the building around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Ms. Torres said she heard the family frantically call out to another neighbor, Choi Sledge. Ms. Sledge pleaded with the family to flee,” reported the NYT.
“Within moments, however, the cascade of water was too powerful, and it also kept anyone from trying to get downstairs to help. ‘It was impossible,’ said Ms. Torres, who lives on the first floor. ‘It was like a pool.’ The family did not survive,” concluded the Times.
There was another similar case that was also revealed. “Darlene Lee, 48, was in a basement apartment that belonged to the super of a condominium in Central Parkway, Queens. Flooding burst through a glass sliding door in the apartment and quickly filled it with about six feet of murky water. The water pinned Ms. Lee between the apartment’s steel front door and the door frame, leaving her wedged and unable to escape.”
A handyman tried to save Mrs. Lee, but it was too late.
State of Emergency in New York
New York City declared a state of emergency due to flooding early Thursday, but many New Yorkers, by that time, were already stranded in subway stations.
“Camilla Akbari boarded a 7:43 p.m. New Jersey Transit train on Wednesday night from New York Penn Station hoping to get to her mom’s place in Princeton, New Jersey. It’s a trip that generally takes about an hour.” CNN recounted. “This trip, though, took about 14”.
Camila, a 24-year-old student at NYU Law, was one of the tens of hundreds of people who was trapped in trains without water, food and electricity for long hours with the uncertainty of not knowing, with accuracy, which was happening due to lack of information.
“We were literally and figuratively in the dark for hours,” she told CNN.
New Jersey was Also Heavily Affected
CNN reported that when the floods began, NJ trains had to stop due to mechanical failures, it was explained to the passengers that another train was going to come to help them, but it never arrived and the hours passed without further news.
“I’m sitting literally right next to the window, and I see the water at my level almost,” said Ilia Rivera to CNN, wondering if she was “going to have to swim out of” the train. Ultimately, passengers tried to fall asleep when they realized they would be trapped for hours.
For her part, Alexandra Patiño, who was traveling from Queens to see her boyfriend in Edison, NJ, expressed frustration “at the lack of information from train drivers.” “The updates were terrible, and no one was really informing us of what was happening,” the woman told CNN.
An NJ Transit spokesperson told CNN there were emergency services and Newark Fire Department personnel ready at the scene with two rescue vehicles at height to intercede in any eventuality, however, they said passengers were safer inside the train. They all got home safe.
The stories are clear: all citizens were struck by surprise by the remnants of Ida. The authorities, in each state, should take this as a warning and be attentive to future disasters and tragedies. For now, we may find solace that New York and the rest of the states are slowly returning to normal and beginning to breathe calm after the storm.