A Trinidadian mother and her son lost their lives in historic floods that swept through New York City overnight from Wednesday to yesterday.
They were attempting to salvage their belongings at a Queens, New York apartment where they lived when tragedy struck.
Prematti “Tara” Ramskiret, 43, and her son Nicholas Ramskiret, 22, both died when floodwaters burst through the concrete wall of their 183rd Street, Hollis, Queens basement apartment.
Prematti’s husband Dameshwar and her other son Dylan were not in the apartment at the time.
The duo is among at least 45 people killed during the devastating floods across northeastern United States, which meteorologists said dropped 35 billion gallons of rainfall in just five hours.
News reports said the family lived in the apartment for 15 years. Neighbours said they could do little to help them, as within seconds water rose as high as four feet.
A neighbour, Mahen Singh, told CBS New York, “I heard a loud scream…It was devastating. I was right out there; I watched the whole thing…Nobody could even help them. They were very helpless.”
A local relative of Premattie, whose family is from Cunupia, Trinidad, said they spoke to Prematti on Wednesday and she told them that there was a lot of rain because of Hurricane Ida. She said they were told Prematti and her son had gone back into the apartment to salvage somet things when the incident happened.
“She was leaving the apartment but went back for something. All a neighbour heard was a scream and water started to gush in with a force,” the relative said.
The relative said Prematti and her long time sweetheart Dameshwar migrated to New York when their first son was just eight months old to make a better life.
The relative said Prematti was a homemaker and her son, Nicholas, was preparing for college.
Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne extended condolences to the family yesterday after confirming they were T&T nationals.
“We have confirmation that a female national and her adult son tragically drowned in Queens NY during these terrible floods. The T&T Consulate General has conveyed condolences to the family, and extended an offer to assist in any way possible,” he said.
The Minister also said he was awaiting an update from the team on the number of nationals impacted.
“It appears that the majority of persons affected by the NY floods were those who sadly found themselves trapped by the waters in basement apartments,” he added.
Most of New York City’s deaths as of yesterday were reported in Queens, while New Jersey reported the highest number of damage to property. The death toll continues to rise, with officials saying it could be days before the count is over.
As of yesterday, a two-year-old boy was the youngest fatality. The toddler and a 48-year-old woman were found unresponsive inside their home at Flushing, Queens.
Emergency responders used rafts to rescue over 400 people trapped in their homes and cars. Cars were swept away while subway lines were submerged in the raging floodwaters. Hundreds were also left without electricity across the tri-state area.
Grace Maloney, a Trinidadian national living in Brooklyn, told Guardian Media she was at her workplace at the Castleton Bus Depot when around 10 o’clock Wednesday, waist-high water began gushing into their office.
“I get so scared I didn’t even think to pray,” Maloney said.
“You look at the bus tyres floating and big iron dumpsters floating,” Maloney recalled.
She said she and her coworkers jumped onto their desks to escape the rising water. She said luckily the water did not rise further than the top of the desks. It was not until around 1 am yesterday that she and her coworkers were able to get out of the bus depot.
According to Maloney, she is five feet five inches and the water level by the time they were escorted out of the building was still about waist high for her.
Maloney, who has been living in New York for over 30 years, said it was the most horrific weather event she has experienced since living there. ALhough she forgot to pray in the moment of tragedy, Maloney said the flood has not shattered her spirit but renewed her faith.
“I am grateful to be alive,” she said.
The extreme weather was caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida. US President Joe Biden said the federal government was ready to provide “all the assistance that is needed”.
Floods broke records
The deluge of rain on Wednesday — more than half a foot fell in just a few hours — turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. Emergency responders in boats rescued people from the rooftops of cars. Hundreds of people were evacuated from trains and subways. A tornado in southern New Jersey levelled a stretch of houses. Some rivers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were still rising.
The rain broke records set just 11 days before by Tropical Storm Henri, underscoring warnings from climate scientists of a new normal on a warmed planet: Hotter air holds more water and allows storms to gather strength more quickly and grow ever larger.
New York City’s subway lines remained at least partly suspended as of midday yesterday, as was commuter rail service across the region. Airports were open but hundreds of flights had been cancelled.
The 3.15 inches of rain that fell in Central Park in one hour on Wednesday eclipsed the record-breaking one-hour rainfall of 1.94 inches on August 21. The National Weather Service, struggling to depict the level of danger, declared a flash flood emergency in New York City for the first time.
In Bergen County, New Jersey’s most populous county, County Executive James Tedesco, a former firefighter, said on Thursday: “We have not complete devastation but close to it. This is as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”