Death toll rises in New York area following the historic flash floods

Flash flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 44 people in the New York area overnight into Thursday, including several who perished in basements during the "historic" weather event officials blamed on climate change, AFP reported. Record rainfall, which prompted an unprecedented flash flood emergency warning for New York City, turned streets into rivers and shut down subway services as water cascaded down platforms onto tracks.

"I'm 50 years old and I've never seen that much rain ever," said Metodija Mihajlov whose basement of his Manhattan restaurant was flooded with three inches of water. "It was like living in the jungle, like tropical rain. Unbelievable. Everything is so strange this year," he told AFP.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at LaGuardia and JFK airports, as well as at Newark, where video showed a terminal inundated by rainwater.

"We're all in this together. The nation is ready to help," President Joe Biden said ahead of a trip Friday to the southern state of Louisiana, where Ida earlier destroyed buildings and left more than a million homes without power.

Flooding closed major roads across New Jersey and New York boroughs including Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens, submerging cars and forcing the fire department to rescue hundreds of people.

At least 23 people died in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy told reporters. "The majority of these deaths were individuals who got caught in their vehicles," he said.

A state trooper died in the neighboring state of Connecticut.

Thirteen died in New York City, including 11 who could not escape their basements, police said. The victims ranged from the ages of two to 86.

Three also died in the New York suburb of Westchester, while another four died in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, a local official confirmed.

Ida blazed a trail of destruction north after slamming into Louisiana over the weekend, bringing severe flooding and tornadoes.

"We're enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Wednesday.

State emergencies were declared in New York and New Jersey while the National Weather Service issued its first-ever emergency flash flood warning for New York City, urging residents to move to higher ground.

It is rare for such storms to strike America's northeastern seaboard and comes as the surface layer of oceans warms due to climate change.

The warming is causing cyclones to become more powerful and carry more water, posing an increasing threat to the world's coastal communities, scientists say.

In Annapolis, 50 kilometers from Washington, a tornado ripped up trees and toppled electricity poles.

The NWS warned the threat of tornadoes would linger, with tornado watches in effect for parts of southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, and southern New York as Ida tracked north through New England.

A tornado struck the popular tourist destination Cape Cod, Massachusetts on Thursday evening.

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