Speed Reads

Left Behind

New Orleans says 'independent' seniors left to swelter without power on upper floors after Ida

Officials in New Orleans found elderly wheelchair-bound residents trapped on the upper floors of privately owned senior living facilities with no electricity and no way to escape the heat after Hurricane Ida swept through the city, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday. Hundreds of people were evacuated on Saturday, nearly a week after Ida hit, The Associated Press reports, and officials said five residents of these facilities died in the days after the storm. 

Some of the managers of the senior living apartment buildings evacuated to other states before Ida hit without making sure the residents of their facilities would be safe and have working generators, New Orleans City Council member Kristin Palmer told reporters. "They're hiding under the loophole of 'independent living,'" she said. "It's not independent living if there's no power and you're in a wheelchair on the fourth floor."

Cantrell said New Orleans is creating inspection teams from health, code enforcement, permits, and other departments to check the senior living facilities, make sure they are safe, and evacuate people from ones that aren't. Then, she said, management will be held accountable and the city will update its regulations to ensure such facilities have contingency plans to ensure generator power in emergencies. 

The power has been restored to about 70 percent of the New Orleans area and nearly all of Baton Rouge, but the rural areas outside those large cities are still mostly dark and restoring power there will take weeks, Entergy Louisiana executives said Monday. 

The New Orleans coroner's office will determine whether the five deaths at the senior living facilities are attributable to Hurricane Ida, but the official death count for Louisiana from the storm is 13, and more than 50 people died on the East Coast when the remnants of the storm dumped huge amounts of rain from Virginia northward.