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When nature unleashes its fury, we become rudely reminded of the limitations of our power. The hurricane Sandy, which is wreaking havoc across the East Coast in US, is one such rude reminder which should shake us from our self-imposed complacency about the supremacy of our power.
Millions of people across the US mid-Atlantic were counting the cost of the cyclone which brought New York to a complete standstill and turned it into a ghost city. The hurricane left around 7.5 million people without power and claimed at least 35 lives, and caused damages to the tune of several billions of dollars (one estimate put it at $45bn). The city’s crippled subway service is unlikely to resume for four or five days and Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Joseph J Lhota said Sandy had been the most destructive storm in the subway network’s 108-year history. Such is the extent of devastation that the storm will remain etched in the memories of residents all their lives.
It’s shocking that a city like New York has been brought to its knees by the storm. It’s a city which had stopped at nothing, and had an aura of invincibility with its unassailable position as the financial nerve centre of the world, and its energy and vibrancy were stunning. But the hurricane caused large swathes of the city to be under water, without power and not doing any business of any sort.
Sandy has also ripped through the presidential campaign, throwing the plans of both the candidates in disarray. Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney cancelled campaign events to be of help to the victims. But a disaster of this magnitude, which can test the preparedness of the state machinery, can become a potent election issue. Americans are closely watching President’s response to the disaster and any lapse can cost him heavily in polls. In that sense, the hurricane has deprived Romney an opportunity as he is left watching his rival reap electoral dividends with his astute disaster management. Already, Obama has scored high marks for his performance and leadership in this time of crisis and glowing praise for his “wonderful” handling of Sandy came even from a fierce foe who backs Romney, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who said that the “president has been great” in handling the crisis.
Despite the storm, New York will rise again. In a few days. The authorities and residents will swing into action to make sure that business goes on as usual, that the city can’t be subjugated.
But the hurricane will drive home the truth that despite all our advancements in this information age, we are as helpless as we were 100 or 1,000 years ago over the forces of nature.