The torrents from Ida’s waters cascaded through New York City basement doors and windows, turning everyday spaces into death traps.
In Woodside, Queens, Deborah Torres said she heard the desperate pleas from the basement of three members of a family, including a toddler.
As the water rushed into the building about 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Ms. Torres said she heard the family frantically call out to another neighbor, Choi Sledge. Ms. Sledge pleaded with the family to flee.
Within moments, however, the cascade of water was too powerful, and it also kept anyone from trying to get downstairs to help.
“It was impossible,” said Ms. Torres, who lives on the first floor. “It was like a pool.”
The family did not survive.
Darlene Lee, 48, was in a basement apartment that belonged to the super of a condominium in Central Parkway, Queens. Flooding burst through a glass sliding door in the apartment, and quickly filled it with about six feet of murky water.
The water pinned Ms. Lee between the apartment’s steel front door and the door frame, leaving her wedged and unable to escape.
Patricia Fuentes, the property manager, had just gotten off work when she heard Ms. Lee screaming for help and found her stuck. Ms. Fuentes ran to the lobby to call for aid, and Jayson Jordan, the assistant super, and Andy Tapia, a handyman, jumped through the broken glass door to get to Ms. Lee.
But they could not save her. Ms. Lee was pinned and Mr. Tapia tried to help her keep her above the chin-deep water. Eventually, the men were able to pry her from the door, but it was too late, Mr. Jordan said. Ms. Lee was killed by the storm.
In Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, Ricardo Garcia was awakened by a surge of water that he said exploded through the door of his shared basement apartment at about 10:15 p.m. In moments, it was up to his knees, then his waist, then his chest.
Mr. Garcia, 50, banged on the door next to his, waking another roommate, Oliver De La Cruz, who was shaking on Thursday morning as he looked at the water stains that reached to the ceiling of his ruined room.
“I almost died inside here, I almost died, man,” said Mr. De La Cruz, 22.
Mr. De La Cruz broke down his bedroom door to escape in his boxer shorts. Mr. Garcia said that he and Mr. De La Cruz climbed to the first floor, struggling against the water pouring down the stairs.
Mr. De La Cruz found his upstairs neighbor, Roxanna Florentino, who has lived in the building for 18 years. She said she heard another man, 66-year-old Roberto Bravo, crying out for help from a back bedroom in the basement apartment.
Ms. Florentino said Mr. Bravo was pleading for help in Spanish, and neighbors were trying to reach him. But water was pouring through both the front door and a window. She realized Mr. Bravo’s screaming had stopped.
On Thursday, it was clear that the water had risen so forcefully where Mr. Bravo had been that it tore off the door and broke though the ceiling, leaving dank decay. The Ecuadorian flag hanging on his wall was soaked and muddied, the floor below strewn with debris, along with a water-stained photo of Mr. Bravo in a tuxedo at a formal event.
Ms. Florentino made her first of four 911 calls at 10:15 p.m. Firefighters arrived an hour later. They brought out Mr. Bravo’s body.
She tried to sleep but each time she drifted off, she heard Mr. Bravo’s voice, calling a last time.
“It’s so hard when someone asks for help and you can’t help them,” she said.