Ida: power outages continue, death toll rises

The search for the missing and recovery continues as the death toll from Ida rises again. The hurricane brought intense rain and flooding to the country’s northeast, killing 49 people. President Joe Biden is expected to visit New Jersey and New York on Tuesday. NewsHour Correspondent Roby Chavez joins from New Orleans.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For an update on the recovery efforts after hurricane Ida's devastation in Louisiana, NewsHour Communities Correspondent Roby Chavez joined us from New Orleans earlier today.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Roby, last time we spoke with you, you were preparing for Ida and here you are now in the aftermath. What's the last few days been like?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Look, it's been a tough week. No power, no water, no food. It's been very, very tough for a lot of people, especially our folks who are on fixed incomes and low income. President Biden came to town yesterday, that brought some smiles to folks and he did what he always does. He was a consoler in chief. He spent several hours on the ground, handholding with folks listening to them. He also brought some good news. He told them that FEMA was going to pay for their hotels if they had to go out of town. He also gave a warning to insurance companies saying don't hide behind the fine print, just pay off those claims as they come. Also brought relief to the 20,000 linemen that are in town trying to fix the power here in southeast Louisiana. They have been living in hotels without water and without electricity. So they're going to put them up now in a cruise ship and set up other shelters. And so that important work can continue.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Roby, where are you joining us from? What's behind you there?

  • Roby Chavez:

    What we're in the greater New Orleans area, and this is a strip mall and you can see some of the destruction here. It literally ripped the whole side of this building down. We've seen a lot of that kind of destruction, thousands of power poles down on top of homes, some of these 300-year-old trees down. And so there's a lot to be cleared out of the roads, which is making it challenging for some of the workers who are working on restoring the power.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What's the fuel situation like? I mean, getting these power lines up means that there have to be generators in the interim or even how these line trucks can get to the places that need to get to.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Yeah, that is probably the most difficult situation right now without power is to kind of get fuel in this area. You know, there were some six of the 16 refineries went down during the storm. And that's causing a huge shortage. GasBuddy did a calculation just here in New Orleans. Some 67 percent of the gas stations are shut down. And as you might imagine, folks are waking up very early in the morning to stand in these lines. It's been very, very hot. Three or four days of heat advisories feeling like 105 degrees. Tempers have flared. There have been fights at gas stations. We've even had one shooting where a person was killed. We're hoping by mid-next week, a lot of the power will come back on. That should alleviate some of the problems.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Have people who had an option to leave left considering that, as you point out, southern Louisiana in the middle of summer can already be hot and sticky, but especially bad without any air conditioning or power for it?

  • Roby Chavez:

    You know, the big concern is the elderly and those folks on fixed incomes and low incomes, they just don't have the money to go so that FEMA support will certainly help folks kind of get through this transition period until the water is on and the power is on. You know, we have some seniors in high rises here in New Orleans without air conditioning and without water. The health department had to go in and help them out. So it's going to be a tough time. We expect that New Orleans area will get power on very shortly. But we're along the coast in southeast Louisiana, Lafourche, Terrebonne and Grand Isle, some 62 percent of the homes down there are destroyed. And so they're not exactly sure where they're going to go or how they're going to rebuild.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Roby, when you're talking about the elderly, what about the nursing homes in the region who have also lost power or what have they been doing?

  • Roby Chavez:

    You know, one of the extreme challenges during this hurricane was to move some of those folks in nursing homes to a safe area. Well, some 800 folks were housed in a mass shelter in deplorable conditions. This week, the health department went in, shut it down, and had to transport a lot of those folks from all of the folks to a different facility. And so those are some of the extreme challenges that folks are just going to have to keep an eye on, especially for those who have some medical challenges.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I know last week we spoke briefly about your relatives. How did they fare through this?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Like everyone else, because I live here, spent a couple of days without phone, without Internet, without any way to communicate, completely shut off. And so I didn't hear from my family until midweek when I was able to go down there actually with a crew to do some shooting. They're doing well, they're safe. Their house is intact, but a lot of their neighbors are hurting. You know, the hard part is, you know, this is an area in southeast Louisiana that kind of stays the same. And that brings some comfort when you go home, you know, nothing changes. And when you get tired of kind of the busy city life, you can go home and kind of just relax and everything stays the same. It certainly doesn't look like that anymore.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NewsHour's Roby Chavez joining us from New Orleans tonight. Thanks so much.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Thank you, Hari.

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