U.S. President Joe Biden pushed for climate control measures Tuesday as he took a firsthand look at widespread damage in parts of the states of New York and New Jersey from last week’s flooding rains and tornadoes spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
At a briefing in an emergency center in New Jersey, Biden warned that all parts of the United States are endangered by climate change and focused attention on infrastructure legislation he supports that is now pending before Congress.
“We’re now living in real time what the country is going to look like,” Biden said during a roundtable discussion, flanked by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell.
“We can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse,” Biden said, adding, “We’ve got to make sure that we don’t leave any community behind.”
Biden on Monday approved major disaster declarations for the parts of New York and New Jersey hardest hit by the storm last week, freeing up financial assistance from the national government.
The aid will be available for businesses and individuals in six New Jersey counties and five in New York, where record rainfall swelled rivers, overwhelmed drainage and sewage systems and flooded many roadways, homes and stores.
The storm killed at least 50 people in six Eastern states, including 27 in New Jersey and 13 in New York, after leaving a trail of devastation and killing at least 12 others in the southern state of Louisiana, 2,100 kilometers away, where the hurricane first came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.
In the heavily populated New York-New Jersey region, some of the victims who drowned were trapped by rapidly rising water in basement apartments, while others were swept away in cars as torrents of water filled streets. The storm also spawned tornadoes that damaged homes and businesses.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy toured flood-damaged areas of Lambertville on Monday, the national Labor Day holiday.
He said Biden's disaster declaration would allow individuals to receive financial assistance, including money for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said damage to city infrastructure was estimated at $35 million.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said an initial assessment showed that the storm damaged more than 1,200 homes in her state and caused about $50 million in damage to public infrastructure and property.
In Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of people could be without electricity for weeks, as repair crews face the daunting task of untangling downed power lines and transformers blocking roadways.
Some material in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.