Most of New Orleans regains power, but many across Gulf Coast still waiting

While President Joe Biden visited New York and New Jersey, hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses in Louisiana, which he visited earlier last week, have remained without power, water or other basic needs for over a week. PBS NewsHour community correspondent Roby Chavez is in New Orleans and joins Judy Woodruff with an update.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the second time in less than a week, President Biden visited communities hit hard by the Ida.

    The president made several stops in New Jersey and New York. At least 50 deaths in six states are associated with the storm that hit last week. And separately, in Louisiana, at least 15 deaths are linked with Ida.

    President Biden said that extreme weather events have made it clear the country must take meaningful action.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: These waves crashed through the streets, testing the aging infrastructure, and taking lives. More lives were taken here than down in Louisiana.

    Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy, and the threat is here. It's not going to get any better. The question, can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    While President Biden visited the Northeast, hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses in Louisiana have not had power, water or other basic needs for over a week.

    The "NewsHour"'s Roby Chavez is in New Orleans. And he joins me again tonight.

    So, Roby, very good to have you there on the ground for us.

    The president was in the area where you are last week. He promised federal resources. Now we know that the state is promising to get the power back on by the middle of this week. Where does it stand?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Judy, look, it's day nine of the recovery.

    And people in Louisiana are still struggling. The things here in New Orleans are getting a whole lot better; 70 to 80 percent of people have That means that there are less lines at the gas station. More of the gas stations are coming online. The grocery stores are opening.

    There's also mail delivery that started. But it's a whole different story along the Gulf Coast, where they have got a direct hit from Hurricane Ida, 98 percent of the people still without power and the basic needs. They need clean clothes, they need water, they need communications, they need power, they need housing.

    So it's really, really tough for them. And the word here on the ground is, once that things start to move into that rebuilding phase, it will be just as tough, because there's a shortage of supply. There's a shortage of labor. That was the case before, during the pandemic. And now after the hurricane, it's even worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Roby, as is so often the case, after these major storms, deaths taking place after the storm has passed. There were more deaths announced today in Louisiana.

    Tell us what you have learned about that.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Yes, the most recent death we heard about is a man who didn't have power, didn't have enough oxygen. And so he passed away.

    In Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, there have been 17 deaths due to Hurricane Ida, a lot of those due to carbon monoxide poisoning after the storm. We have seen four people, according to the Louisiana Department of Health, die from using these generators improperly.

    Nearly 140 people went to the hospital from improperly using the generator. We're also continuing to see problems with those vulnerable populations, our senior citizens, those with special needs, those on low and fixed income, those also with medical challenges.

    They're just trying to get basic resources to keep them alive. And it's tough.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The challenges are just enormous. How are people dealing with all this?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Look, make no bones about it. It has been a very tough last few days for everyone in Southeast Louisiana.

    But the spirit of Louisiana, the spirit of New Orleans is alive. it warms your heart when you see strangers walking up to strangers and helping each other to fix their homes, to fix meals. Some of the restaurants in the area have donated all their food. There's been these mass barbecues to feed folks.

    And that allows them to have a hot meal, but also get together as a community and start to talk about some of the experience that they have had with Hurricane Ida.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Roby, one other thing we have been reading about today, and that is even cemeteries affected by this.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Yes, a big problem. Whenever it floods, the cemeteries, the tombstones in Louisiana are above ground because of most of the area is below sea level.

    Whenever we get these huge floods, the caskets literally will pop out of the tombstones and end up down the street in people's yards cluttered with the rest of the debris. There is a special task force in Louisiana that then tries to get all of those caskets back to the place of burial. But it's not an easy task.

    After Katrina, they did kind of mandate that there should be some identification inside those caskets. But we understand from Hurricane Laura last year they're still trying to replace some of those caskets to their final resting place.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So difficult, one issue after another.

    Roby Chavez, reporting for us from New Orleans, thank you so much.

    Thank you, Judy.

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