NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Hundreds of thousands of Louisianans suffocated in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on Tuesday with no power, no tap water, little gasoline and no clear idea of when things could get better.
Long lines that wound around the block formed at the few gas stations that had fuel and a generator to pump it. People removed rotten food from refrigerators. Neighbors shared generators and borrowed buckets of pool water for bathing or flushing toilets.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and no one has any illusions that this will be a short process,” Governor John Bel Edwards said as cleanup and rebuilding began in the soggy region in late summer. . Heat.
New Orleans officials announced seven places in the city where people could have a meal and sit in the air conditioning. The city was also using 70 transit buses as cooling sites and will set up drive-thru food, water and ice distribution points on Wednesday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.
Cantrell also ordered a nighttime curfew on Tuesday, calling it an effort to prevent crime after Hurricane Ida devastated the electrical system and left the city in darkness. Police Chief Shaun Ferguson said there had been arrests for theft.
The mayor also said she expects the main utility company Entergy to be able to deliver electricity to the city by Wednesday evening, but stressed that does not mean fast food. city-wide. Entergy was considering two options to “start supplying critical infrastructure in the region such as hospitals, nursing homes and first responders,” the company said in a press release.
Cantrell acknowledged his frustration in the days to come.
“We know it’s hot. We know we have no power, and that continues to be a priority, ”she said at a press conference.
Edwards said state officials were also working on setting up the distribution of food, water and ice. The governor’s office also said discussions were underway about setting up cooling stations and places where people on oxygen could plug in their machines, but officials had no details on when these could. be operational.
More than a million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi – including all of New Orleans – were without power when Ida slammed the power grid on Sunday with her 240 km / h winds, knocking down a great transmission tower and knocking out thousands of miles of lines and hundreds of substations.
More than 25,000 utility workers are estimated to have worked to restore power, but officials said it could take weeks.
With water treatment plants overwhelmed by floods or crippled by power outages, some places also faced shortages of drinking water. About 441,000 people in 17 parishes did not have water, and another 319,000 were on boil water advisories, federal officials said.
The death toll has risen to at least four in Louisiana and Mississippi, including two people killed Monday night when seven vehicles plunged into a 20-foot-deep hole near Lucedale, Mississippi, where a freeway had collapsed after torrential rains.
Among the victims of the crash was Kent Brown, a “beloved” father of two, his brother Keith Brown said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. Keith Brown said his brother was under construction but had been out of work for some time. He didn’t know where his brother was headed when the accident happened.
Edwards said he expects the death toll to rise.
In Slidell, teams searched for a 71-year-old man who was attacked by an alligator that tore off his arm as he walked through Ida’s floodwaters. His wife pulled him up to the steps of the house and rowed for help, but when he returned he was gone, authorities said.
In New Orleans, drivers lined up for about a quarter of a mile, waiting to board a Costco that was one of the few places in town with gasoline on it. At other gas stations, motorists occasionally stopped at pumps, saw the handles covered in plastic bags, and drove off.
Renell Debose spent a week suffering in the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricane Katrina of 2005, which killed 1,800 people and left the city nearly uninhabitable. She said she was ready to give him a few days without electricity, but no more than that.
“I love my city. I was made for it. But I can’t do it without air conditioning,” she said.
Michael Pinkrah used his declining fuel to find food. He cradled his 3 week old son in the backseat of an SUV and his 2 year old daughter played in the front seat as his wife lined up in the sweltering heat to enter one of the few grocery stores open in city.
Pinkrah said he and his wife had considered evacuating but were unable to find a hotel room. They found out about the open store via social media. But even that connection was tenuous.
“We can’t charge our electronic devices to keep in touch with people. And without that, all communication fails, ”he said.
In hard-hit Houma, the grim reality of life without air conditioning, refrigeration or other more basic supplies began to set in.
“Our desperate need right now is tarps, gasoline for generators, food, water,” said Pastor Chad Ducote. He said a Mississippi church group arrived with food and supplies, and neighbors came to his pool to collect buckets of water.
“The people here are doing what they can. They have nothing, ”he said.
The scorching weather added to the misery. A heat advisory has been issued for New Orleans and the rest of the region, with forecasters saying the combination of high temperatures and humidity could give an impression of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday and 106 degrees on Wednesday .
Cynthia Andrews couldn’t return home to New Orleans if she wanted to. She was in a wheelchair, attached by a power cord to the generator system that operated the elevators and hallway lights at Le Méridien.
When the power was cut on Sunday, the machine that helps Andrews breathe after a lung collapse in 2018 stopped working. The hotel let her stay in the lobby, giving her a cot after spending most of the night in her wheelchair.
“It was so scary, but as long as this thing keeps working it will be fine,” she said.
Deslatte reported from Thibodaux, Louisiana. Associated Press editors Janet McConnaughey, Rebecca Santana and Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans; Jay Reeves in Houma, Louisiana; Alina Hartounian in Scottsdale, Arizona; Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta; Jeff Martin in Marietta, Georgia; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
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