Biden visits Louisiana as Gulf Coast, Northeast recover from Ida’s toll

The death toll from Ida grew Friday as first responders in some places went door to door to list the missing. At least 49 people were killed in five Northeast states. President Joe Biden traveled to Louisiana to see the devastation. Community correspondent Roby Chavez begins with a report from New Orleans.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The death toll from Ida grew today, and first responders in some places went door to door to draw up lists of the missing. At least 49 people were killed in five states in the Northeast, including at least 25 in the state of New Jersey.

    President Biden traveled to Louisiana today to see the devastation from Ida, which first hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane nearly a week ago, about 816,000 people in the region without power, and many without water. But hopes grew for restoring some of that next week.

    Roby Chavez, our communities correspondent in New Orleans, begins with this report.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Tens of thousands of people across the Northeast are without power, as many start to recover from the path of death and destruction left behind from Hurricane Ida.

    The death toll was the highest in New Jersey, where most drowned after being trapped in their cars. Before-and-after satellite images from across the state show how catastrophic the flooding is.

    The focus now? Recovery and prevention.

  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy:

  • Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ):

    It is quite clear our state and our nation does not have the infrastructure to meet this moment and to meet the future as it relates to these storms, which are more frequent and more intense.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In Pennsylvania, drones captured severe floodwaters that consumed communities and highways. The Schuylkill River nearly swelled onto the bridge. It has since dropped below flood stage.

    Flood victims who were rescued in Montgomery Country were shocked by the unprecedented rainfall. Those visiting from out of town were also caught off-guard.

  • Sherly Saturnino, Vacationer:

    We were staying at the Residence Inn when the waters rose much higher and faster than we ever anticipated, and found ourselves trapped.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In New York City, commuters relying on the transit system were met with delays as operations slowly recovered. Floodwaters blocked passageways in Central Park. Aside from the structural damage, several deaths were also reported across New York, many of them trapped in their basement units, including a toddler and his two parents in Queens. Some managed to get out.

  • Danny Ong, Flood Survivor:

    The water goes to my neck. So, my neighbor in the second floor, he hold my hand, and then I hold my wife's hand and my (INAUDIBLE) hand, so we can get out from the basement.

  • Roby Chavez:

    New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the state will investigate any shortcomings in the early warning advisories, but noted that the storm took experts by surprise.

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY):

    Those warnings were there, but what was not addressed was warnings perhaps in different languages.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Meanwhile in St. John Parish, Louisiana, President Biden met with officials, where he was briefed on Hurricane Ida's destruction. He reaffirmed that federal emergency relief is on the way.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: There's more to come to restore power as fast as we possibly can, faster than anything that happened during Katrina.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In Southeastern Louisiana, entire small towns were left devastated by storm damage. One of the coastal communities that President Biden surveyed during an aerial tour was Grand Isle.

    Piles of rubble lay where buildings and homes once stood. Officials say the island is uninhabitable and is not accessible by land. And in the town of Independence, Louisiana, officials are investigating the deaths of four nursing home residents following their evacuation ahead of the storm.

    More than 800 nursing home residents were being housed in unsafe and unsanitary conditions inside a warehouse, reports of overcrowding and patients laying on the floor in feces and urine. Residents on Thursday were transported from the facility to hospitals for medical evaluation. At least 14 were hospitalized.

    Family members were outraged.

  • Renetta Derosia, Daughter:

    I thought they were coming to a nursing home, that they were going to have nursing beds, and be — there would have been taken care like they were in a nursing facility.

  • Sabrina Cox, Niece:

    Elderly people should not be treated like this in any kind of way. Nobody should be treated like this.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Across the state, food, water, and fuel remain scarce. Utility teams restored electricity to several hospitals near New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Power is expected to be restored in some areas by the middle of next week, a vital necessity, especially in a state reeling from a resurgence in COVID-19 infections that has overwhelmed hospitals.

    While New Orleans' storm infrastructure prevented some flooding, rural areas remain in the dark, with a long recovery ahead.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Roby Chavez.

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