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The United States hopes the “blizzard of the century” that killed at least 53 people across the country in the middle of the Christmas season will soon end. Yet horror stories of people dying or being stranded in their cars for days are mounting.

The total number of deaths confirmed by authorities in nine US states has reached 53, including 31 in Erie County alone, including the city of Buffalo, New York, where President Joe Biden on Monday approved a state of emergency. According to officials, a higher number is feared as relief progresses and is clarified.

The severe weather that has plagued the country for a week started easing in the East and Midwest on Wednesday. “This is clearly the blizzard of the century,” New York State Governor Cathy Hochul said Monday.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting temperatures to rise by around 10°C over the weekend, although it is warning of “dangerous traffic conditions locally”.

The bitter cold that hit the United States brought heavy snow and strong winds, especially in the Great Lakes region, causing disruption to road and air traffic and forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights over Christmas. More than 5,900 flights were canceled between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the tracking site FlightAware.com.

Demonstrations

Many of these flights are operated by Southwest Airlines, which has canceled more than 60% of its routes due to logistical issues, drawing criticism from the Department of Transportation, which said on Twitter it was “concerned about the unacceptable cancellation rate from Southwest.”

Southwest boss Bob Jordan said Tuesday he was “truly sorry,” adding in a video that a “massive effort to stabilize the company” was underway.

“We’re recovering from one of the worst storms we’ve ever seen, unfortunately with one of the highest death tolls we’ve ever seen in a storm,” Erie County Sheriff Mark Bolancarz said at a news conference Tuesday. We will never forget it,” he added.

In Buffalo, a 22-year-old woman who had been paralyzed for five days died in her car after she got stuck in the snow, her family said. 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 Eguilar told AFP he had been stuck with the job for “more than 40 hours”. “I’ve been in Buffalo since 1970 (…) and this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in Buffalo,” said Joe Merkel, another resident of this large city near the Canadian border.

The rescuers were trapped

Buffalo Vice Mayor Crystal Rodriguez-Dubney told CNN on Tuesday that “rescuers flew to the aid of other rescuers.” “It’s important to help the relief workers first so they can go and help people,” he explained.

Precisely, some wondered about the city’s response to the reported storm, wondering whether the ban on driving should not have been decreed earlier.

“There was a lot of snow, cars were stuck, people were still trying to drive,” Buffalo resident Chris Ortiz told AFP.

An emergency services worker who was stuck in his ambulance for 14 hours without food or water said “most of the (emergency) calls came from people trapped in their cars,” quoted by the Washington Post.

“The reality is that the occupants of the trapped vehicles should not have been there,” the employee said. The city police announced that eight people have been arrested by its anti-robbery squad formed with the storm.

“These are not people stealing food, medicine or baby diapers,” said Buffalo Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia. “They vandalize shops, steal televisions, sofas and anything they can get their hands on,” he added.

This article was published automatically. Sources: ats / afp

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