30 Aug 2011

Irene leaves more than 40 dead in US

At least 40 people have died after Hurricane Irene lashed the east coast of the US. Around five million people are without power while the total cost to country’s the economy could reach $20bn.

Irene leaves more than 40 dead in US

As Irene passed over the US into Canada, thousands of homeowners were left surveying its destructive power.

New Jersey and Vermont suffered their worst flooding in decades after Hurricane Irene, which was downgraded to a tropical storm, slammed an already soaked region with torrential rain, dragging away homes and submerging neighbourhoods underwater.

New York City was spared from the worst of Irene and many people returned to work on Monday.

Airports in New York, Boston and Philadelphia have reopened but officials estimate it will take a several days to get hundreds of thousands of stranded travellers to their final destinations.

Overall, some 5.1m homes and businesses were still without power, from North Carolina to Maine, and utility companies say it could take days to restore electricity in more accessible areas, and weeks in the hardest-hit regions.

The total economic damage could reach $20bn according to Standard & Poor’s.

Hundreds of thousands of homes suffered damage, raising questions about how much would be covered by insurance, as many homeowner policies do not cover flood damage.

Photo gallery: Irene batters US east coast

In Fairfield, New Jersey, about 20 homes near the Passaic River were submerged, some in 1.5 metres of water. People waded chest-high or rode canoes down the street, while others just sat and witnessed the flood from their stoops.

“This is the worst flood we have ever had,” said Mike Chiafulio, 52, who could only watch as the water continued to rise around his mother’s house. He said the flooding exceeding what he remembered from notable floods in 1968 and 1984.

Hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey could be without electricity, water supplies or gas for days to come, their comfortable towns strewn with felled trees and branches blocking main roadways.

“We’ve had major rains before but we’ve never had flooding like this,” said Ben Cohen, a retired judge who lives in Maplewood. “I can only vouch for the last 38 years but nothing even can come close to this.”