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In The Neighborhood Of Jamaica, Queens, Residents Clean Up After Historic Flooding

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we've been reporting, Hurricane Ida did immense damage in Louisiana and Mississippi. And even though it was downgraded, the storm was still really intense as it moved through the northeastern part of the United States, especially in New York City. Some of the victims there were caught by fast-rising waters in their own cars or in basement homes. WNYC's Brigid Bergin spoke with residents cleaning up in the storm's aftermath. She talked to them in the neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Mud cakes the narrow, winding, tree-lined streets where detached homes sit back from the sidewalk. Some people have yards. When I met Karen Lee, she was bailing buckets of water out of the car parked in her driveway.

KAREN LEE: Car's all wet (laughter).

BERGIN: It flooded. Every now and then, a pipe on the front of her brick house belches water onto the pavement. That's from her husband pumping out their swamp of a basement. It flooded, too.

Wow. How tall are you?

K LEE: I'm 5'3". So it's probably at least 5 foot and half to 6 feet tall.

BERGIN: Lee knows flooding is a problem in the area. She couldn't get flood insurance. But she's never experienced something this extreme.

K LEE: I mean, you could drown in that. It's like - it's taller than me.

BERGIN: And sadly, just around the corner, that's exactly what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

BERGIN: A 43-year-old mother and her 22-year-old son died when they became trapped in a basement apartment towards the bottom of a sloping street. George Lee lives a few doors up from them. He points back down the street towards a trailer.

GEORGE LEE: That thing in the corner there, you know, that metal shed - the whole freaking thing tipped over. That's how bad it was.

BERGIN: From slightly higher ground, he saw the water rush so hard and fast, it moved a construction trailer down the street. It was part of an ongoing drainage project.

CHANMATTI KANDASANI: I just locked the door because I don't want nobody to go in.

BERGIN: Sure.

Another neighbor, Chanmatti Kandasani, takes me into her basement, which filled up completely. The water is gone now. But...

Oh, my goodness (gasping).

There's a blast of must as she opens the door. Drywall sits on the floor, ripped from the walls. The waterline at the ceiling is clearly visible. No one lived down here, but she kept a lot of important things in this space, like extra furniture for when she and her family held traditional Hindu worship ceremonies in their backyard.

KANDASANI: This is all my storage. When I have religious function, I bring my stuff down and leave it downstairs. So a lot of things damage here - a lot, lot.

BERGIN: And the cleanup has only just begun.

For NPR News, I'm Brigid Bergin in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE END OF THE OCEAN'S "FORSAKEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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