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US slowly emerging from storm, death toll rises



(Baltimore) The United States was slowly emerging from a historic storm on Wednesday that killed at least 56 people, but its impact continued to be felt in the Buffalo area and at airports, as hundreds of thousands of passengers saw their canceled flight.

Heavy snowfalls, icy winds, sudden drop in temperatures… Even in regions used to harsh winters, bad weather has wreaked havoc, to the point that rescue teams sometimes found themselves stranded.

New York’s Erie County, home to the city of Buffalo near the border with Canada, alone accounts for 34 of the nation’s at least 56 storm-related deaths, according to a new report on Wednesday.

People have been found dead in their cars or on the streets, some after waiting for hours for rescue.

The cold was felt to varying degrees in much of the country, including Texas and Florida, which are unaccustomed to such weather conditions.

The latter improved on Wednesday, with rising temperatures.

This does not mean that the population is out of danger, according to the authorities.

“As temperatures warm, we expect snowmelt and possible flooding from rapid melting,” Erie County official Mark Poloncarz warned.

The driving ban remained in effect Wednesday in Buffalo. And the National Guard will go door to door in areas where power has not yet been restored, to make sure residents are safe, the official tweeted.

Stacks of suitcases

At airports, especially in Denver, Chicago and Baltimore, disruptions continued. In question: the cancellations of flights in series around the Christmas weekend.

But while the pace of most airlines had returned to normal, one, Southwest Airlines, continued to deal with a service debacle in recent days. Of the approximately 2,800 flights canceled Wednesday morning, more than 2,500 were operated by Southwest, according to the FlightAware website.

On Tuesday evening, its CEO Bob Jordan apologized in a video message.

“We are doing everything we can to get back to normal. […]. I’m really sorry,” he said.

On CNN, the vice-president of the Southwest Pilots Association, Mike Santoro, expressed his frustration, explaining in particular that the company had long suffered from a “largely outdated” computer system, making the organization of flights complicated.

“We’re tired of apologizing on behalf of Southwest,” he said, calling on the company to invest in upgrading its system. “This is the biggest disruption I have seen in my 16 years with the company. […]. It’s embarrassing,” he said.

Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg said he would take a close look at “what happened with their system”.

“While we understand that it is impossible to control the weather, here the line has clearly been crossed between an uncontrollable situation in terms of weather and something which is the direct responsibility of the company,” he said. at NBC.

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of suitcases were still piled up at BWI airport in Baltimore, Maryland, waiting to be returned to their owners, according to an AFP journalist.

Donald Sneyder, a Southwest customer, was queuing with about 40 other people outside the company’s baggage counter.

“I had a Sunday flight to Indianapolis, but it got canceled and my bags had already been checked in,” he explained.

“I didn’t try to come earlier this week, it looked like a mess. But I hope to collect my luggage today,” he added.

Other people were trying to locate their luggage with the help of airline staff, amid the hundreds of bags and suitcases lined up, classified by flight.

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