Superstorm Sandy drowns, crushes and electrocutes helpless victims as death toll reaches 50
PLUNGED into darkness by nature’s wrath, more than eight million people across the eastern seaboard of the United States were facing a second night without power after superstorm Sandy claimed the lives of at least 50 people and wrought scenes of “unthinkable” devastation.
• President Obama declares Sandy a major disaster
• At least 50 reported deaths in seven states, including at least three children
• Fire in Queens, NY destroys 80-100 homes
• Presidential campaign on hold
• Millions left without power, New York Subway flooded
• Sandy moves inland, reaching the MidWest
After the longest and darkest of nights, bruised and battered cities and towns began the daunting task of restoring their crippled infrastructure yesterday, following a storm New York mayor Michael Bloomberg described as “devastating, maybe the worst we have ever experienced”.
A record 13ft tidal surge caused havoc in New York and New Jersey, destroying scores of homes, leaving around 8.2 million people without power, forcing the evacuation of hospitals and bringing widespread flooding throughout some of the most populous areas in the western world. It is believed at least three children were among those who perished in Sandy’s trail of destruction, the youngest of whom was aged just eight.
While the greatest number of fatalities was suffered in a besieged New York, the death toll spanned no fewer than eight states across the seaboard – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, New Hampshire, West Virginia and North Carolina, with a further fatality in Toronto, Canada.
The victims included friends Jack Baumler, 11, and Michael Robson, 13, who died after a 100ft oak tree crashed through a property in North Salem, a suburb of Manhattan. In Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, a boy aged eight died after he was struck by a tree limb.
While 17 people were confirmed dead in New York, Mr Bloomberg said “tragically, we expect that number to go up”.
Painting a scene of the chaos caused by Sandy, he said people had lost their lives through “a whole
variety of causes”.
“Someone was in their house in their bed and a tree fell on him and killed him,” he said.
“Someone stepped in a puddle where there was an electric wire. We had a couple of bodies in someone’s house. I’m not sure what the story is there.”
Sandy was reclassified from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone shortly before making landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey, but according to Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it had an “astoundingly low” barometric pressure, giving it tremendous energy to push water inland.
As the storm continued to churn its way inland yesterday with weakened but still powerful winds, president Barack Obama declared a “major disaster” in the New York City area.
He said: “I want to repeat my message to the federal government – no bureaucracy, no red tape. Get resources where they’re needed as fast as possible, as hard as possible, and for the duration.”
Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight has predicted Sandy will end up costing about $50 billion (£31bn) in property damage and lost business.
In the initial hours of the storm, Sandy’s wrath plunged much of lower Manhattan into darkness after an explosion in a power substation, while high above the streets of Midtown, high winds nearly severed a crane from a luxury high-rise.
New York University’s Tisch Hospital was forced to evacuate 200 patients after its back-up generator failed. Patients – among them 20 babies from the neonatal intensive care unit who were on battery-powered respirators – had to be carried down staircases and on to dozens of ambulances waiting to take them to other hospitals.
By dawn there was no respite. In Queens, at least 80 homes in the Breezy Point neighbourhood were turned into smouldering ash after a huge fire broke out.
Key routes in the city, such as the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, which connects lower Manhattan with Brooklyn, remained choked with floodwater and debris, while the city’s subway system endured the worst damage in over a century. It is believed it will take four days to pump the water from the subway.
Low-lying streets in Manhattan also became channels for seawater, as the Hudson and East rivers overflowed, sweeping cars along in the torrent. The surge even brought a large tanker aground on Staten Island, a sign of its ferocious power.
New York’s financial district was closed for a second day, but is expected to reopen today.
About 6,100 people in the city spent the night in 76 shelters, but Mr Bloomberg promised them yesterday that, with their help, New York would be restored to its former glory.
He said: “The damage we suffered across the city was extensive and will not be repaired overnight.
“We will get through the days ahead by doing what we always do in tough times: by standing together, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to help a neighbour, comfort a stranger and get the city we love back on its feet.”
For those in New York with little option but to hunker down and hope for the best, the scenes proved terrifying.
Among people visiting Manhattan when the storm hit was a group of pupils from Stonehaven’s Mackie Academy, who were in the US to take part in an inter-school law competition.
Speaking from the Marriott Hotel in Brooklyn, one of the group, Lauren McArthur, 17, said: “It’s really scary. I have never been anywhere near a hurricane before in my life. We have been confined to our hotel and no-one is allowed out. It’s like we’ve been quarantined.”
In the neighbouring state of New Jersey, the first to bear the brunt of the disaster, the tidal surge overwhelmed three communities and prompted the mass evacuation of thousands of people from their homes.
The towns of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt were left underwater after the swollen Hackensack River breached its barriers just after midnight.
One mobile-home resident, Juan Allen, said: “I saw trees not just knocked down but ripped right out of the ground. I watched a tree crush a guy’s house like a wet sponge.”
Elsewhere, swathes of New Jersey, including Atlantic City, suffered considerable flooding and damage, with sections of the resort’s iconic boardwalk reduced to a tangle of timber planks and concrete, and parts of the walkway washed inland by as much as a quarter of a mile.
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, said that 5,500 people were in shelters and 29 hospitals across the state had lost power.
There was “major damage” to the railway line, he added, with “no county spared” damage from falling trees.
The massive storm reached well into the midwest, with heavy rain and snow, caused by its convergence with a cold-weather system.
Chicago officials warned residents to stay away from the shore of Lake Michigan, as the city prepared for winds of up to 60mph and waves exceeding 24ft well into today.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west