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NEW YORK: Storm-battered New York got slowly back on its feet yesterday with Wall Street and the city’s airports getting up and running after a powerful storm that left more than 50 Americans dead.
Just six days before America goes to the polls, President Barack Obama came to survey the damage in neighbouring New Jersey, where tens of thousands of homes are under water and millions of families without power.
While much of New York and many more towns along the US east coast remains paralysed following Monday’s onslaught by cyclone Sandy, some key businesses like the stock exchange got back to work.
John F Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports made a limited reopening, although LaGuardia was still shut. At last count, 19,500 flights had been cancelled because of Sandy, tracking service flightaware.com said.
Buses were back on New York city streets and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that limited subway services would resume today, despite many of the tunnels still being inundated by corrosive seawater. Cuomo said there would be “limited commuter rail service on Metro North and on the Long Island Railroad which will begin at 2:00 pm today.”
But large sections of New York, including many skyscrapers in lower Manhattan, remained without electricity, and schools throughout the city were shuttered for a third straight day.
About 10,000 National Guard troops deployed to storm-hit states to help local authorities rescue stranded survivors, remove debris, direct traffic and assess the damage from the air, the Pentagon said yesterday.
The head of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, travelled to New York to look at how the corps could bolster efforts to restore power and clear water from flooded tunnels and electric substations.
While National Guard trucks rolled through the flooded streets of New Jersey, troops offered help along a main highway in the mountains of West Virginia, where the massive storm dumped a blanket of snow.
Army engineers stood ready to provide pumps and generators as needed while the US Navy sent out three amphibious ships off the New Jersey coast in case state governments requested aid for rescue operations. It was clear that the cleanup and healing process would take much time.
New York police raised the storm-related death toll to 24 yesterday, with the overall US toll passing 50 according to officials and US media. Another 67 people died as Sandy swept through the Caribbean last week.
Nearly two million customers had electricity restored, but another 6.2 million across 16 states remained without power, the Department of Energy said.
The worst affected were New Jersey and New York, where about two million customers in each state were without power, followed by Pennsylvania with 852,458 outages, the department said. Insured losses from Sandy could run between $7bn-$15bn, according to initial industry estimates.
Three US nuclear power reactors remained shut and a fourth on alert, after storm waters wreaked havoc with transmission networks and cooling systems, but authorities insisted there were no risks to the public.
Inland, Sandy dumped three feet of snow on high ground in Appalachian states as she headed west and north, spreading blizzard conditions over parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
At 1900 GMT, the National Weather Service said Sandy had weakened but that additional snowfall of up to four inches was expected in the mountains of West Virginia, far western Maryland and southwest Pennsylvania.
The annual New York marathon was confirmed to be going ahead on Sunday after doubts about whether roads would be cleared in time and whether thinly stretched police would have sufficient resources. However, another Big Apple tradition, the Halloween Parade yesterday, was cancelled. AFP
NEW YORK: With power outages and emergency evacuations of seriously ill patients in hurricane-strength winds, New York hospitals faced their biggest challenge this week since the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a senior doctor.
Institutions including New York University Hospital and another in Coney Island were forced into patient evacuations after flooding and loss of electricity in superstorm Sandy on Monday and Tuesday. Bellevue Hospital, the oldest in the country, was evacuating its 500 patients yesterday, officials said.
“This is perhaps the most complicated situation that New York has seen in 30 years,” Carlos Cordon-Cardo, head of the pathology department at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said. “I was here on September 11 and I was more involved than I’d have liked to be. On 9/11 there were people with lung problems, some poisoning, but there were not people who were very sick or with urgent medical needs because unfortunately we lost many people. This time it was a medical emergency in the real sense,” he said. Mount Sinai, which is in the unscathed upper Manhattan area, took in 64 patients from NYU Hospital. Overall, NYU Hospital transferred 300 patients to safer facilities.
“There was a major need for transferring very critical patients. We had a relatively short window to work in. Although the weather was very poor it wasn’t such a strong wind that the ambulances would be damaged,” he said. “We had a very sick patient arrive without his electronic records, only a few half-soaked papers,” he recalled. Many of the 650 staff on his team slept in the hospital that night.
“It was emotional and extraordinary to see how a whole group of professionals worked together in a harmonious way, without sleeping or sleeping on top of conference tables, or in cars that had been left it the garage.” Even after the storm, the situation remained complex for hospitals.
“At this time, we are focusing on assessing the full extent of the storm’s impact on all of our patient care, research, and education facilities,” NYU Hospital said. Coney Island Hospital had a more difficult task. It had to transfer about 200 patients, some of them to other hospitals and the less sick back to their homes.
Cordon-Cardo said that worse was avoided by good preparation. “We began coordinating at the end of last week. We put beds in various conference rooms. People who lived far away and would have trouble came to the hospital from Sunday. When the storm arrived we already had the team ready. “Now the task continues,” he said.
NEW YORK: It is meant to be the city that never sleeps, where you can shop till you drop and eat the best food.
But superstorm Sandy has forced the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Metropolitan Museum to close and left tens of thousands of tourists pacing the rainy streets in a city with no public transport and most restaurants closed.
Department stores and cinemas have shut down. The lights are out on Broadway musicals and the Lincoln Centre opera. Central Park and other New York parks have been closed because authorities fear that tree branches could fall after powerful gusts blasting at 150km per hour hit the city on Monday.
Jean-Charles Beyaert, a dentist from France, had planned an intense week of sightseeing with 16 friends and relatives. They had hoped to attend a Harlem Gospel mass, visit Columbia University, Brooklyn and museums, as well as walk in the park. Sandy scuppered all their plans.
With guide books in their hands, the group, dressed in obligatory multi-coloured plastic ponchos, walked the streets aimlessly. They had lunch at a rare hamburger restaurant that was open on 23rd Street. “We walk because everything is closed,” said Beyaert. Not every visitor is taking the hardship with such aplomb. Hotels in the southern part of Manhattan are caught in the power blackout trap. No electricity means no elevators and a cold dark room waiting after a tough day on the streets.
Helene Leplat, also from France, said she was “disgusted.” She is staying with the brother of a friend in a small apartment and complained that the storm has left her group with nothing to do for more than two days. Their dreams of seeing the view of Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building and visiting the Natural History Museum have been blown away by the storm.
Margarita Seeber, a nurse from Argentina making a first visit to New York with her husband, was also on target to return home with sour memories. “We heard nothing about this before leaving Buenos Aires,” she said. They are staying at a hotel in the SoHo district.
“There is no water, no electricity. We have been given bottles of water to drink but there is nothing to eat. We had fruit for breakfast and nothing last night. A maid gave us some bread and cheese,” Seeber said. AFP