'Can’t afford to leave': People stranded as deadly Hurricane Ida hits

·5-min read

People stuck for cash have been left with no choice but to wait out one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US, despite wanting to protect their families.

Category Four storm Hurricane Ida ploughed into the US state of Louisiana on Sunday, with 240km/h winds, torrential downpours and pounding surf that submerged much of the shoreline under several metres of water.

The state's largest city, New Orleans, was in complete darkness by night as the power went out.

In the days leading up to Ida making landfall in Louisiana, people were lining up in their cars to evacuate from the capital, Baton Rouge, headed for safer locations.

Interstate 10 in Louisiana was packed with evacuees heading east before Ida made landfall. Source: The New Orleans Advocate via AP
Interstate 10 in Louisiana was packed with evacuees heading east before Ida made landfall. Source: The New Orleans Advocate via AP

Many forced to bunker down as hurricane approaches

Robert Owens, 27, was hopeful he, his wife, his mother-in-law, his housemate and their four pets would be among those to evacuate.

However, come Sunday, he was still in Baton Rouge, feeling defeated and helpless, waiting for Ida and taking shelter in his family's duplex apartment.

“Our bank account is empty – we can’t afford to leave,” he told the Associated Press.

Mr Owens tried getting a loan on Saturday, to pay or petrol and a hotel room, only to be denied.

The 27-year-old said he isn't alone — most people in his low income neighbourhood are in the same predicament, they want to protect their loved ones, but have no choice but to stay put.

"A lot of us here in my neighbourhood have to just bunker down and wait, not knowing how bad it’s going to get. It’s a terrifying feeling,” he said.

Hurricane Ida barrelled into the Louisiana coast on Sunday, packing winds more powerful than Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hurricane Ida barrelled into the Louisiana coast on Sunday, packing winds more powerful than Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images

He said while there are people who have the money to use to get out, there's still a lot of people who don't have a savings account to rely on.

“We’re left behind,” he said.

By 9pm on Sunday, the power cut out in Mr Owens' neighbourhood, he said the sky was lighting up green as transformers blew up.

While it was too dark to see the extent of the damage, several trees had collapsed on to his neighbour's properties.

“Never in my life have I encountered something this major,” he said.

Worried the roof of their duplex would come off, Mr Owens's wife packed a bag of clothes and essentials.

A satellite image shows Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the coast of Louisiana, U.S., August 29, 2021.  NOAA/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
A satellite image shows Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the coast of Louisiana, on August 29. Source: NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

If they lose their house, their plan is to take shelter in his wife's Toyota Avalon, a vehicle “not nearly big enough” to shelter four people, three dogs and a cat, the Associated Press reported.

“There’s a general feeling of fear in not knowing what’s going to be the aftermath of this,” he said. 

“That’s the most concerning thing. Like, what are we going to do if it gets really bad? Will we still be alive? Is a tree going fall on top of us?”

Ida is expected to move north and inland in the coming days. It made landfall in Louisiana on the exact day Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier.

Montegut and Bourg firefighters cut through trees on the road in Bourg, Louisiana as Hurricane Ida passes on August 29, 2021. - Hurricane Ida struck the coast of Louisiana on August 29 as a powerful Category 4 storm, 16 years to the day after deadly Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern US city of New Orleans.
Firefighters cut through trees on the road in Bourg, Louisiana as Hurricane Ida passes on August 29, 16 years to the day after deadly Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern US city of New Orleans. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Covid patients forced to stay put

The sheriff's office in Ascension Parish reported the first US fatality from the storm — a person in Baton Rouge who was killed by a fallen tree.

On Twitter, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed the man was aged in his 60s and the tree had fallen on his home.

The storm's approach forced the suspension of emergency medical services in New Orleans and elsewhere across a state already reeling from a fourth wave of Covid infections that has strained Louisiana's healthcare system.

For an estimated 2450 Covid patients hospitalised statewide, many in intensive care units, evacuation was not an option, Reuters reported.

The state health department announced community-based Covid testing and vaccine sites would close amid the storm.

The most recent data shows the state was having more than 3000 Covid cases a day, the surge largely being driven by the Delta variant.

Governor John Bel Edwards said it would be impossible for hospital patients to be evacuated, because all hospitals in Louisiana and neighbouring states are full with Covid patients.

“We don’t have any place to bring those patients — not in state, not out of state,” Edwards said according to the Louisiana Illuminator.

Hospital roof ripped off in storm

Part of the roof at The Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Galliano was ripped off the by the hurricane.

CNN reported the county was forced to relocate its emergency operations centre to a different building after the roof began to leak.

Fortunately, the Lafourche Gazette reported all patients at the hospital were okay and none were injured.

With Associated Press and Reuters

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