At least 25 people have died as people became trapped in flooded basements and roads turned into rivers as the remnants of Hurricane Ida lashed the northeast US.
Wild weather inundated large swaths of the northeastern US with historic and unanticipated fury which President Joe Biden has blamed on the impacts of climate change.
At least 25 people were killed in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as basement apartments filled with water, rivers and creeks swelled to record levels and roadways turned into car-swallowing canals.
The ferocious storm also spawned tornadoes, including one that ripped apart homes and toppled silos in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, south of Philadelphia.
“I had the hope they would get out. It happened so fast,” said Deborah Torres, who lives on the first floor of a building in Queens where three people died in a basement apartment.
Water from record rainfall cascaded into New York City subway tunnels, trapping at least 17 trains and forcing the cancellation of service throughout the night and early morning.
Videos online showed riders standing on seats in cars filled with water. All riders were evacuated safely, officials said.
At least eight people died when they became trapped in flooded basements on Wednesday (local time), New York City police said.
Five people were found dead in an apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the city’s mayor and spokesperson told local media.
While outside Philadelphia, officials reported “multiple fatalities,” saying no additional details were immediately available.
On Thursday morning (local time), the nation’s largest city was slow to recover from catastrophic flooding that was reminiscent of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The National Weather Service recorded 8.91 centimetres of rain in Central Park in one hour on Wednesday night (local time), far surpassing the previous recorded high of 4.92 centimetres that fell in one hour during Henri on August 21.
Scientists have warned such weather extremes will be more common thanks to global warming.
Major flooding along the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania swamped highways, submerged cars and disrupted rail service in the Philadelphia area. In a tweet, city officials predicted “historic flooding” on Thursday as river levels continue to rise. The riverside community of Manayunk remained largely under water.
The rain in the tri-state area ended by daybreak Thursday as rescuers searched for more stranded people and braced for potentially finding more bodies.
“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 said while declaring a state of emergency in New York City late Wednesday (local time).