(Buffalo) As the United States hopes to be over soon with the “blizzard of the century”, which killed at least 53 people across the country in the middle of the Christmas period, the terrifying accounts of people dying in their cars or stranded by the storm for days multiplied.
The total of deaths confirmed by authorities across nine US states has reached 53, including 31 in Erie County alone which includes the city of Buffalo, New York where President Joe Biden on Monday endorsed the ’emergency state.
A higher toll is to be feared, according to the authorities, as relief progresses and clears.
The bad weather that has plagued the country for a week began to ease on Wednesday in the east and the Midwest. “This is clearly the blizzard of the century,” New York State Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday.
The US National Weather Service (NWS) predicts temperatures will rise to around 10°C by the weekend, but warns of “locally dangerous traffic conditions”.
The extreme cold that hit the United States was accompanied by heavy snowfall and strong winds, particularly in the Great Lakes region, causing chaos in road and air transport and forcing the cancellation thousands of flights around Christmas.
According to tracking site FlightAware.com, more than 5,900 flights were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Many of these flights are operated by Southwest Airlines, which has canceled more than 60% of its routes due to logistical problems, drawing reprimands from the Department of Transport, which said on Twitter “worried about the unacceptable rate of cancellations from Southwest “.
Southwest boss Bob Jordan said he was “really sorry” on Tuesday, assuring in a video that “a massive effort to stabilize the company” was underway.
“We are recovering from one of the worst storms we have ever seen, unfortunately with the highest death toll we have ever had in a storm,” Erie County official Mark Poloncarz said Tuesday during of a press conference. “We will never forget it,” he added.
In Buffalo, a 22-year-old woman, paralyzed for five days, died in her car, trapped by snow, according to her family. A video sent by the victim and posted by his sister shows him rolling down the window of his vehicle during the blizzard.
Buffalo resident Mark Eguliar said he was stuck at work “for more than 40 hours.”
“I’ve been in Buffalo since 1970 […] and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in Buffalo,” said Joe Mergl, another resident of this large city near the border with Canada.
Buffalo Deputy Mayor Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney told CNN on Tuesday that “rescuers flew to the aid of other rescuers.”
“It was necessary to first help the relief workers so that they could go and help the population,” she explained.
Precisely, some wondered about the city’s response to the announced storm, wondering if the ban on driving should not have been decreed earlier.
“There was a lot of snow, cars were stuck and people were still trying to drive,” said Buffalo resident Chris Ortiz.
An employee of the emergency services quoted by the washington postherself stuck in her ambulance for 14 hours without food or water, said “most (emergency) calls came from people trapped in their cars”.
“The truth is, those people in stuck vehicles shouldn’t have been there,” the employee said.
City police also announced the arrest of eight individuals by its anti-looting force set up with the storm.
“These are not people stealing food, medicine, or baby diapers,” Buffalo Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia said. “They destroy shops, steal televisions, sofas, anything they can get their hands on,” he added.