Sunday, December 5

This is what it was like to be stranded in New York transportation due to the floods

(CNN) — Camilla Akbari boarded a New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) train at 7:43 p.m. Wednesday from New York’s Penn Station in hopes of reaching her mother’s home in Princeton, New Jersey. It is a trip that generally lasts an hour.

This trip, however, lasted about 14.
Amid torrential rains and flooding, the 24-year-old New York University Law School student found herself trapped overnight aboard the train without electricity, ventilation, food or water. The toilets could not be used. Throughout the night, he says he heard a stream of false promises that help was on the way.

“We were literally and figuratively in the dark for hours,” he told CNN.

Akbari was one of thousands of people who were trapped in the New York metropolitan area’s public transportation systems Wednesday night due to flash flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. No means of transportation was spared. Streets, subways, elevated trains and airports were flooded by the storm.

New York declared a state of emergency early Thursday morning, the city’s first flash flood emergency. And the city enforced a travel ban until 5 a.m. (Miami time). However, these statements came too late for many travelers, who were trapped in transportation hubs far from their homes.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) explained the problems early Thursday: The subway system was flooded in 46 places, about 65 buses were blocked or stuck, and two trains on the northern subway line were stranded.

Additionally, all NJ Transit rail services, except for the Atlantic City rail line, were suspended due to flooding.

The New York Fire Department had to rescue hundreds of people from subway stations, spokesman Frank Dwyer said. The MTA chief said between 15 and 20 subway trains were stranded.

“The most important thing is that we got people out safely,” said MTA Acting President and CEO Janno Lieber.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told CNN on Thursday that New York City was paralyzed by the unprecedented storm.

“Throughout the night, literally, we had public transportation workers running down the tracks to make sure they were safe,” he said. “There were a lot of floods. No lives were lost there.”

Stranded on NJ Transit

NJ Transit said about 200 passengers were aboard train 3881, which left New York at 7:43 p.m. bound for Trenton. The train was disabled around 8:30 pm due to high floodwaters on the tracks east of Newark International Airport, NJ Transit spokeswoman Mariluz García-Díaz reported.

Akbari, Ian Wolsten, Ilia Rivera and Alexandra Patino were among the passengers on board and described a harrowing journey that was made more frustrating by a lack of information.

A couple of stops into the journey, the train stopped on the tracks as it rained heavily and the flooding began. The passengers were told that there was a mechanical problem on the train and that a rescue train was on the way. But hours passed without more information. So they stayed seated.

Rivera, a 30-year-old who works in the fashion industry, said the water level rose to near the train window. “I’m literally sitting by the window, and I see the water almost at my level,” she said. “I say to myself, ‘Am I going to have to swim out of here?’

Three cars at one end of the train had a few inches of water, so the passengers were transferred to other unaffected cars, García-Díaz said.

After several hours of waiting, the electricity was cut off, with no lights, no air conditioning and no ventilation, and no open windows or doors due to the torrential rain. The passengers eventually made up their minds that they would be trapped overnight and tried to fall asleep.

Water takes over the subway in New York 1:10

Wolsten, a 27-year-old traveler on his way home to East Brunswick, New Jersey, said passengers were initially amused by the situation.

“But very soon it was dark,” he said. “Once the power to the trains was cut off, we were helpless. It’s one thing that it’s all dark in there, because we’re sleeping anyway, but there was no air conditioning or ventilation, so you think, with the covid, it’s like , ‘What the hell is going to happen if the air goes nowhere?’ It became worrying very quickly. “

Patino, a 30-year-old woman who was traveling from Queens to see her boyfriend in Edison, New Jersey, said she was frustrated by the lack of information from train drivers.

“The updates were terrible, and no one was really informing us of what was happening,” he said.

The rain ended, but the train’s doors and windows remained closed for the most part. First thing in the morning, the people had become agitated. Akbari said he saw the masks being worn off, smelled cigarette and marijuana smoke, and saw a woman on the verge of a panic attack. However, there was no reliable information on when they could move again.

Garcia-Díaz, the NJ Transit spokeswoman, said emergency services and Newark Fire Department personnel were at the scene with two high-altitude rescue vehicles, but ultimately decided that passengers and crew would be more safe on the train. No one was injured.

“The decision to keep travelers on the train was the safest option, as the cars were high enough above the water,” he said in an email.

At around 4 in the morning, the traffic police arrived with bottles of water and opened the doors to let in fresh air.

“I think I started to feel quite panicky,” Akbari said. “When I got to the door that the Transit authorities had opened, I realized that I was shaking a little, I had tears, just because I was so overwhelmed by the situation. So it was definitely scary,” she said.

A rescue train finally arrived an hour later and towed the non-operating train to the Newark airport station. There they asked the passengers to get off and wait on the platform for a running train.

In the end, the passengers told CNN that they got home safely.

Patino took the next train to Edison and got to her boyfriend’s house around 7 a.m. Rivera took the train to Elizabeth and got home around 7 a.m. Wolsten took the train to the Metro Park stop and got home around 6:45 am

Akbari took the train to Trenton, where he arrived at 7:30 a.m., almost 12 hours from his departure time. Her mother picked her up by car and it took her another two hours to get to Princeton as they had to navigate closed and flooded streets.

“It was definitely an adventure,” Akbari said. “I think it’s a little easier to look back now than when it was happening.”

Stranded in the subway station

CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz spent the night at the Times Square subway station in Manhattan, joining the dozens of people who were stranded by the malfunctioning system. A Line 1 train had been stopped at the station from 9:45 p.m., and had to wait until shortly after 7 a.m. for only one stop to move, he said.

“For many of these people there is no way to get home. The subway is their life. This is the way to get home,” Prokupecz said. Many of the stranded people were coming from work and waiting to get home to Brooklyn, he added.

Beverly Pryce was one of the people stranded by the flood.

Pryce said she left her Queens home Wednesday night to try to get to work as a nurse. He took an Uber taxi to a bus station. But there were no buses due to flooding, she said, so she got stuck at the station. He got on another bus to try to get to work, but that road was also blocked by flooded streets.

She then took the 7 train that took her to the Times Square station, arriving at around 11:30 pm, and found herself trapped there overnight. There were no buses or trains to go anywhere. Pryce says that she has lived in New York for 30 years and “had never seen anything like it.”

“I did not expect it to be so serious,” he said. “I would not have left my house.”

Robert Hedglin left his work in Manhattan around 9 p.m. and got on the subway to his home in Queens. But his train was stuck underground for more than an hour between two stops at the station. Once the train reached the next stop, the rest of its trip was canceled, he told CNN.

There were no taxis, trains, or buses to get home. So he had a drink or two in a bar until 12:30 in the morning and then went to a coffee shop until 3 in the morning.

“I’m exhausted, frustrated, but at least I got home safe and sound,” he said. “Others were not so lucky”.

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Angela Dewan, Justin Lear, Brandon Miller, Mark Morales, Shimon Prokupecz and David WIlliams contributed to this report.

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