Heavy rain into Friday affected the areas of the US northeast which was already sodden from Hurricane Irene, with up to five people killed as flash floods forced 130,000 to leave their homes. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood warning for residents of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland including Virginia, as towns became inundated, busy highways closed down and commuter lines backed up.
President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in New York and Pennsylvania, ordering federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts to “save lives and to protect property and public health and safety,” the White House said. Some 100,000 people in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne county are under “mandatory evacuation” orders, including 20,000 in the city of Wilkes-Barre, according to local officials.
Stephen Bekenich, the county’s emergency management director, warned that those who remained in flood-prone areas could not count on being rescued.”If folks choose not to leave, they are taking (their) lives into their own hands,” he said. “Help may not be able to reach them.”The city of Binghamton, New York – where 8.5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours – has ordered a mandatory city-wide evacuation, affecting 10,000 people.