Building inspectors in New York say five out of the six houses where people died in flooding were illegally converted basement units, reports the New York Times
At least 11 people died there out of the 13 total deaths in the city.
Authorities also blamed illegal conversions on fatalities in four basement apartment buildings in Queens.
The New York Daily News reports that one of those who died in a basement unit has been identified as Yue Lian Chen.
“This is my first time confirming that we had a neighbor in the basement. I’ve never seen her,” said a second floor resident to the Daily News.
Others killed have been identified as Deborah Hsu, and a family of three- including a toddler boy identified as Ang Lobsan, his father Ang Lama,50, and mother Mingma Sherpa, 48.
According to ABC News, a record 3.15 inches of rain fell in one hour Wednesday.
“What we saw in some of these basement apartments on Wednesday was people need to be evacuated who are far away from the coast, because of the sheer intensity and speed, the amount of rain that came in such a brief period of time,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The mayor estimates there are 50,000 basement units in the city with 100,000 residents.
“We have an illegal basement problem and then we have a problem that so many people end up in illegal basements are fearful to communicate for fear they might be evicted or, worse in their mind, deported,” de Blasio said. “It’s just an extraordinarily challenging set of circumstances.”
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