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Minggu, 29 Agustus 2021

Hurricane Ida slams into Louisiana coastline, heads for New Orleans, 16 years after Katrina hit - ABC News

Hurricane Ida has blasted ashore as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US, rushing from the Louisiana coast towards New Orleans. 

The category four storm with winds of 230 kilometres per hour hit on the same date that, 16 years earlier, Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said it was not the kind of storm they normally experienced. 

"This is going to be much stronger than we usually see and, quite frankly, if you had to draw up the worst possible path for a hurricane in Louisiana, it would be something very, very close to what we're seeing," he said. 

Residents in Louisiana woke up to a monster storm after Ida's top recorded winds grew by 72kph in five hours, as the hurricane moved through some of the warmest ocean water in the world, in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Officials said Ida's swift intensification from a few thunderstorms to a massive hurricane in just three days left no time to organise a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans's 390,000 residents.

A news crew reports on the edge of a lake surrounded by water and wind caused by Hurricane Ida
“The storm surge is just tremendous," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said. (

AP: Gerald Herbert

)

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell urged residents to leave voluntarily.

Those who stayed were warned to prepare for long power outages amid sweltering heat.

"This is the time. Heed all warnings. Ensure that you shelter in place. You hunker down," Ms Cantrell said at a press conference.

Empty lots are common in coastal Mississippi, with Katrina having knocked down so many houses.

Claudette Jones evacuated her home as waves started pounding the shore.

"That's what I'm praying for. But I'm not sure at this point."

Preparing for the worse 

President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi ahead of Ida's arrival and said the support would remain in the region for "as long as it takes".

He said the country was praying for the best for Louisiana and preparing for the worst.

"As soon as the storm passes we're going to put the country's full might behind the rescue and recovery," he said. 

“We’re as ready as we can be."

Cars drive through flood waters caused by Hurricane Ida
Flooding from Ida's storm surge could reach 4.5 metres around the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center said. (

AP: Steve Helber

)

Hundreds of emergency responders were in place in Louisiana, and the US Army Corps of Engineers had power restoration experts and generators waiting for Hurricane Ida to hit. 

The Coast Guard was ready for “deep water search and rescue efforts", federal officials said. 

“I want to make sure that we're ready to surge all the response capacity, capability that we have to deal with whatever comes next, and a lot's going to be coming,” Mr Biden said at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.

Natural disaster amidst a pandemic

The region is already reeling from a resurgence of COVID-19 infections due to low vaccination rates and the highly contagious Delta variant.

New Orleans hospitals planned to ride out the storm with their beds nearly full, as similarly stressed hospitals elsewhere had little room for evacuated patients.

Louisiana hospitals and their intensive care units are filled with patients from the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, sparked by the highly contagious Delta variant and low vaccination rates across Louisiana.

More than 2,400 COVID-19 patients are in Louisiana hospitals, and Louisiana Governor Edwards said the state was in a “very dangerous place" in terms of available medical care.

Mr Edwards said a big focus would be on ensuring there was enough generator power and water at hospitals to keep up with vital patient needs, such as providing oxygen or powering ventilators.

Shelters for those fleeing their homes from Hurricane Ida carried an added risk of becoming superspreader locations. 

Ida following Katrina

Hurricane Ida hit about 72 kilometres west of where category three Katrina first struck land in 2005. 

Katrina caused levee breaches and catastrophic flooding in New Orleans and demolished oceanfront homes in Mississippi, resulting in 1,800 deaths. 

Ida's hurricane-force winds stretched 80 kilometres from the storm's eye, but the storm is about half the size of Katrina.

A satellite image shows Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the coast of Louisiana, US. 
A satellite image shows Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the coast of Louisiana, US. (

Reuters: NOAA

)

Ramsey Green, who is in charge of New Orleans infrastructure, emphasised before the worst of the storm that when it came to protection against storm surge the city was in a "very different place than it was 16 years ago".

Water should not penetrate the levee system, which has been massively overhauled since Katrina.

But if forecasts of up to 50 centimetres of rain come true, the city's underfunded and neglected network of pumps, underground pipes and surface canals likely can't keep up, Mr Green said.

"It's an incredibly fragile system," he said.

The Governor, Mr Edwards, warned his state they faced difficult days, if not weeks recovering from the storm.

"Many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today," he said. 

"But I can also tell you that as a state, we have never been more prepared," he told a news conference." 

ABC/AP

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2021-08-30 00:56:05Z
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