US battles historic floods as toll mounts

2011-08-30 12:04

Wilmington - The extent of Hurricane Irene's destruction became clearer on Monday as the north-eastern US states of New York and Vermont battled record flooding and the death toll climbed above 30.

Major cities including New York took unprecedented evacuation measures and were largely spared the full wrath of Irene, which was downgraded on Sunday to a tropical storm as it drenched a vast stretch of the east coast.

But the storm, whose death-strewn trail of carnage began a week ago in the Caribbean, refused to go out with a whimper, ravaging virtually the entire state of Vermont before crossing into Canada.

"We're going to be digging out for a long time. Irene really whacked us hard," Governor Peter Shumlin told Vermont Public Radio.

At the White House, President Barack Obama voiced concern about the flooding in Vermont and other states in the New England region. "It's going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude," he said.

No electricity

The top US disaster official, Craig Fugate, said around five million people remained without electricity, many farther south in states like Virginia, and that it would take "some time to get all of the power back up".

Vermont, a mountainous state criss-crossed by numerous streams and rivers, saw floods in virtually all major towns, including the capital Montpelier, where water levels began to recede on Monday morning.

"We are in uncharted territory," said Joe Kraus of the Central Vermont Public Service. "In many places, we can't even get to the damage."

Dramatic television pictures from upstate New York and Vermont showed dangerous flash floods sweeping through residential areas and vast stretches of cascading water out in the country where rivers had burst their banks.

In the Vermont town of West Brattleboro, which virtually looked like a beach with sand, rocks and debris scattered about, neighbours came out to help one another by lending power generators and chainsaws to clear fallen trees.

Repairs started

Albert Bernier, who lives in a trailer park, washed and oiled a wide collection of tools to get to work on repairs but feared that the damage was insurmountable.

"I've had enough. I'm not moving back," said Bernier, who along with his wife Penny is staying with family for now.

While sun returned to most of the eastern United States, conditions were still risky. National Weather Service expert David Vallee said that key rivers such as the Connecticut were not likely to crest until Wednesday.

Vallee described Irene as "a very well-behaved New England breed of hurricane," but said that conditions before the storm, including recent heavy rains, had made the ground wet and prone to flooding.

Officials and local media reported at least 33 deaths across 10 states, with six deaths each in New York state and North Carolina, where Irene made landfall on Saturday with winds upwards of 140k/h.

Fatalities

The youngest fatalities were a boy killed by a falling tree in his apartment in Newport News, a city on a coastal peninsula in Virginia, and a girl who died in North Carolina.

Canada recorded its first probable fatality after a man was swept away in Yamaska, northeast of Montreal, when two cars plunged into a chasm created when a road washed out, Quebec police said.

The hurricane earlier last week killed at least five people in the Caribbean, two each in the Dominican Republic and Haiti and one in the US territory of Puerto Rico.

The Obama administration and local authorities defended the mass evacuations for Irene. The disaster struck just ahead of Monday's sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which killed at least 1 500 people and raised questions about then president George W Bush's leadership.

Can’t wait

"We can't wait to know how bad it is before we get ready. We have to go fast, we have to base it upon the potential impacts," Fugate said.

Eqecat, a catastrophic risk management firm, estimated that damage to the eastern United States from the hurricane could reach up to $7bn.

But Wall Street rallied in part on relief of limited damage to the infrastructure of the world's largest economy.

New York's subway, which was closed on Saturday in an unprecedented act of caution, reopened on Monday morning, although many suburban trains and national rail operator Amtrak reported major disruptions.

- SAPA

Read more on:    barack obama  |  dominican republic  |  us  |  haiti  |  canada  |  weather  |  hurricane irene  |  natural disasters
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R3565.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.