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US winter claims more lives as bad weather rises

A powerful winter storm that slammed North America has claimed more lives in the US state of New York, local officials say.

Citing County executive, Mark Poloncarz, the BBC reported on Wednesday that at least 34 people have died in Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo.

Authorities are still trying to identify three of the victims.

The storm that swept across the US over the holiday weekend has killed at least 60 people in eight states.

There have now been more fatalities in Erie County in the last few days than during the infamous Buffalo blizzard of 1977.

Twenty-nine people died in that storm, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s a horrible storm with too many deaths,” Mr Poloncarz said during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

But conditions in some of the hardest-hit regions in the US, including New York, are starting to improve.

In Erie County, fewer than 1,000 households are now without power, and 95% of residents should have power restored by the end of the day, Mr Poloncarz said.

The city of Buffalo, which got more than four feet (1.2m)of snow – has made progress clearing roads, county officials said. At least 65% of city streets have at least one lane available for passage, though a driving ban remains in effect due to dangerous conditions, Mr Poloncarz said.

The local Buffalo Niagara International Airport reopened 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT) after closing last Friday, while the city’s rail service is running again on a limited schedule.

The US National Guard is going door-to-door in neighborhoods in the county that lost power to conduct wellness checks as officials are “fearful” that some living alone may have perished during the storm, Mr Poloncarz said.

With temperatures rising and snow beginning to melt, the county is now preparing for the possibility of flooding, the county executive said.

Elsewhere in the US and Canada, residents are still dealing with the effects of the deadly winter storm as well as new dangerous weather systems.

The system has already caused flooding in the western states of Washington and Oregon, where more than 80,000 customers were without power as of Wednesday morning, according to outage tracker PowerOutage.us.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor