Ida aftermath: New Orleans lifts curfew as more power is restored

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New Orleans lifted a nighttime curfew as the US city prepares to return to full strength 10 days after Hurricane Ida, but hundreds of thousands of people outside the city were still without lights no water, and more than a quarter of a million children were unable to return to schools.

The city was left completely in the dark when Hurricane Ida hit the Louisiana coast with winds of 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) on August 29, cutting off electricity at over a million people all over the state.

Two days later, New Orleans Police and Mayor LaToya Cantrell imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time, citing cases of theft and other minor offenses. They withdrew the order Wednesday morning, but the police department said in a statement it would maintain “increased and targeted patrols throughout the city.”

Meanwhile, authorities increased the death toll in Ida state to 26 on Wednesday, with the additional 11 deaths all occurring in New Orleans. The deaths occurred between August 30 and September 6, but were confirmed to be linked to the storm by the Orléans parish coroner, the state’s health department said.

Nine of the deaths in New Orleans are due to “excessive heat during a prolonged power outage” and involved people aged 64 to 79, the department said. The remaining two deaths were linked to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley noted that 250,000 students were still unable to attend classes due to the hurricane. Prior to Ida, schools in the state were open despite widespread cases of COVID-19, albeit under a statewide mask mandate for all indoor locations.

“We need to bring these kids back with us as soon as possible,” Brumley said.

In New Orleans, school superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said the damage to schools appeared to be mostly minimal, but that electricity should be restored to all buildings and teachers, staff and families must return to the city.

“Now more than ever, our children should enjoy the comforts of structured and routine daily schooling,” Lewis said in a statement. “So let’s unite to reopen our schools quickly and safely. “

Lewis said he expects classes for some to resume as early as next week and all students will be back a week after that.

No school reopening estimate has been provided for the five parishes hardest hit by Hurricane Ida, which are home to approximately 320,000 people: Terrebonne, Lafourche, St James, St Charles and St John the Baptist. Ten days after the hurricane, 96 percent of utility customers in these parishes are still without power.

Homes, businesses and beaches damaged at entrance to Grand Isle after town and barrier island were devastated by Hurricane Ida [File: Adrees Latif/Reuters]

In the town of Terrebonne Parish of Houma, bucket trucks with linemen were on all the streets, and as the day wore on there were signs of progress as the street lights began to operate on the street. very busy road to Grand Caillou in the early afternoon.

Although electricity arrived in parts of the parish of Terrebonne, it was of limited use to Cie Verdin. The 52-year-old fisherman was staying at his son’s home in Houma after his own house by the bayou was all but destroyed by the storm.

“All the ceilings have fallen. You can see the daylight through the roof, ”said Verdin. “All we have is basically a shell.”

Ida also dispersed most of her 200 crab traps in unknown areas. “The only thing I have left is my boat and some of my commercial fishing rigs,” he said.

Statewide, crews have now restored power to 600,000 of the 902,000 that lost power during the height of Hurricane Ida, said Entergy Louisiana President and CEO Phillip May, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the power company expects 90% of the city to be back online by Wednesday night, said Deanna Rodriguez, Entergy New Orleans chief executive officer. “The greater New Orleans area is coming back to life,” Rodriguez said.

May warned that some people who regain power could still lose it at some point in the coming days. This is because the tree canopy was badly damaged by Ida, and damaged limbs and branches still in the trees could be shaken and fall.

Access to fuel was still difficult on Wednesday, with the GasBuddy.com website reporting that about 48% of gas stations in Baton Rouge did not have gasoline. About 56 percent of New Orleans stations were also dry.

About 62,000 people still did not have running water in Louisiana, the state health department reported. That’s significantly lower than the hundreds of thousands who had no water immediately after Ida landed.

Yet more than 580,000 people have been ordered to boil their water for their safety.

In many neighborhoods, houses remain uninhabitable. About 3,200 people are in mass shelters around Louisiana, while another 25,000 people whose homes have been damaged remain in hotel rooms under the Federal Agency’s transitional accommodation program. emergency management.

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