The death toll in Buffalo, New York has risen to 28 after the deadliest winter storm in 50 years struck the area, bringing freezing temperatures and overwhelming snowfall. As roads in the city remain impassable due to the heavy snow, many remain trapped in their homes and vehicles as first responders struggle to conduct search-and-rescue efforts.
27 of the reported deaths were in Erie County and one in Niagara County, where a 27-year-old man died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “Unfortunately, they are still recovering bodies.”
“Stay home. Don’t go out,” added Gramaglia.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz reported that 14 people in the county died of exposure, three were found in their vehicles, four died from not having heat, three died while shoveling snow/snow blowing, and three passed away after EMS services were delayed due to the storm.
“I am aware of additional bodies that have been recovered and are being brought to our temporary morgue,” Poloncarz reported. “We’ve had so many bodies that various hospitals are full and we’re just having to go through and determine if the individuals have died from a blizzard-related death.”
“It’s just been a horrible, horrible situation,” he said.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency, pleading for federal aid as 10,000 people are without power and residents are running out of food. Meanwhile, they are bracing for a second storm that’s forecasted to dump another foot and a half on the city.
On top of these pressing issues, criminals are taking advantage of the power outages and impassable roadways and looting vulnerable stores.
Videos taken by residents have shown looters entering stores and ransacking them, leaving with armfuls of stolen items. Some people were filmed carrying large televisions out of stores that have been closed since the storm hit.
One man noted that these thieves weren’t stealing food or medicine from the stores they looted, saying, “So these people aren’t in distress – these are people that are taking advantage of a natural disaster and the suffering of many in our community to take what they want from retailers.”
One liquor store’s security footage caught a man breaking the window and stealing $500 worth of goods. The store owner reported that he stayed overnight in the store after this break-in because he couldn’t board up the broken window.
One disgusting thief was bold enough to film herself on Facebook Live while she looted a dollar store with a friend, overturning shelves and throwing products on the ground.
County Executive Poloncarz expressed his disgust with the looters during a press conference on Monday. He said, “I’m heartbroken about the deaths, just absolutely devastated to see as many deaths. And then to find out that there’s looting going on in our community at the same time we’re still recovering bodies is just horrible.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I don’t know how these people can even live with themselves, how they can look at themselves in the mirror… They are the lowest of the low.”