The number of victims after a thousand kilometers of devastation caused by hurricane “Ida” continues to rise: More than 50 deaths are to be mourned in the northeastern United States, there are eleven more in the US state of Louisiana, where “Ida” as a monster hurricane (240 km / h wind) crashed into the coast a week ago. Torrential rain a few days later flooded large parts of New York, leaving 13 people dead.
The metropolis was particularly shaken by a horrific fate: Ang Gelu Lama (50) and his wife Mingma Sherpa (48), as well as their little son Lobsang Lama (2) drowned helplessly in their basement apartment in the flood. BILD went on a search for clues.
In front of the two-story house, two days after the tragedy, workers are still pumping water from the basement and the generator is roaring. The flag in the garden is at half mast. It is immediately apparent why the water had risen so rapidly here: The building is located at the lowest point of the settlement. “The masses of water shot down from all the streets like a raging river and converged here,” says neighbor Helen Duff. It shows on the fence how high the brown sewer had risen at the end.
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Why did the immigrants from Nepal fail to escape? This is a puzzling question here. When the family saw the rushing water, they called for help over the phone. Two calls went to 911 and another to the landlady. She appealed: “Go out! Go out! ”Obviously it was already too late because of the masses of water penetrating with full force.
Was the basement apartment rented illegally?
BILD saw the remains of the tiny basement apartment: when you go down the steep stairs, you can see a small living room with kitchen, next to it two tiny rooms. There was also a back exit. Heartbreaking: Little Lobsang’s colorful children’s toys are scattered around. The water whirled everything upside down.
The water was also on the ground floor, one floor above: The neighbor Deborah Torres (38) who lived there just managed to escape with her daughter. But she knew that there was no escape for the family below: “It was impossible to get out because the water was up to my knees and I live on the floor above. Can you imagine what it looked like in the cellar? ”The corpses of the family were recovered by fire department divers in the storm night.
Passing Lama stands shocked in front of the fence: He grew up with the dead family man in the same place. Junbesi is located in the Sherpa region of Nepal in the Himalayan valleys near Mount Everest, a day-long walk from the next main road. They both came to New York around 20 years ago. Days before the tragedy he met his friend: “He was happy, he spent a lot of time with the boy.” Lama used to work at the “Seven Eleven” chain, but lost his job. His wife worked in a hotel.
The financial situation explains why the family had lived in this gloomy basement with only small slits as a “window” for the past three years – in a death trap, as it turned out on Wednesday.
“I miss him very much, it’s really hard,” Lama’s older brother Domi Lama told BILD during a ceremony in a Sherpa temple. Last Sunday they went shopping at the “Costco” department store chain, then he had a coffee with his brother in his apartment. “That was the last time that I saw him”. He bows his head: “Little Lobsang loved sitting on my lap”
The tragedy is likely to have criminal consequences: The basement apartment was probably rented illegally, mainly because of the limited escape routes. The owner of the house, according to official documents Catherine Ha, does not want to answer questions.
After an inspector from the city administration has examined the place of death and spoken to her, she literally fled at a running pace. The horrific death of the family is apparently not only a tragedy, but also a crime.