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DOHA: There are an estimated 1,200 Qatari citizens in the US and, thankfully, there were no reports of any threat to their safety from Hurricane Sandy until going to the press late last night.
Besides, there are countless expatriates here who are either from the US or have near and dear ones based there.
All Qatar Airways (QA) flights to and from New York and Washington were in meanwhile cancelled yesterday, but the airline said its Houston flights were on track.
“QA has daily flights to and from New York and Washington, which have been cancelled, but Houston flights are on track,” an airline official told this newspaper.
In Qatar, many people were upset when they had to change their travel plans after international flights to the US as well as domestic flights (within the US) were cancelled.
“I had to change my flight from New York to San Francisco because of the storm,” Mellissa Mitchel, a resident of Qatar for the last 12 years, said.
Many expatriates in Qatar are concerned for friends and family members who are in the US and have been calling them up.
“My brothers and sister are living in the Long Island area with their families, and that area is one of the main targets of Hurricane Sandy,” Sameer Ahmed, a Pakistani expatriate said.
They have all gotten together in one house and they have stored bread, water and other items such as flashlights because of the storm,” he said, adding that he fears he might not be able to get in touch with them during
Most of the Qataris in the US are students, while some are patients who are receiving treatments in various parts of the country.
Others are tourists and businessmen, a Qatari diplomat based at the country’s embassy in Washington, said.
Prominent Qatari businessman, Abdul Hadi Al Shahwani, is also in the US. He told this newspaper from Ohio that he was safe.
The Qatari diplomat told this newspaper on the phone late last evening that there were also some fellow citizens who were in the US to attend conferences.
According to him, some 50 to 60 Qataris from different parts of the US had called up the embassy yesterday after reading the hurricane alert posted on its website. “They basically wanted more information about the storm,” said the diplomat.
The Qataris in the US are spread across the country, from the east to the west. Asked if the Qatari embassy was involved in evacuating nationals trapped in some hurricane-affected areas, the diplomat replied in the negative and said: “We are sticking to the local plan. We have to follow the local authorities.”
“However, we are ready to provide any kind of assistance needed, including basic necessities like food and blankets,” he said, adding that so far no request for assistance had been made by any of the Qataris in the US.
People living in the coastal areas are being evacuated. “In inner city areas, there could be power outages for a day or flooding, so evacuation is not being resorted to,” said the diplomat.
He replied in the negative when asked if any Qatari individual or family had contacted the embassy for assistance for being repatriated home.
Travel and tour trade sources said that some Qatari individuals and families had travelled to the US for vacationing during the long Eid Al Adha holidays.
In the meantime, the Qatar embassy in US remained closed yesterday, but emergency access numbers of staff members and diplomats were provided for assistance.
Social media here was also abuzz with talks of three Qatari students reportedly saving seven Emiratis during the hurricane, though this could not be independently confirmed.
NEW YORK: Powerful winds buckled a crane on a New York skyscraper, giving an alarming warning of the danger from Hurricane Sandy as authorities tried desperately to persuade people in high-risk areas to get to safety.
With power cuts already hitting as winds strengthened and sea levels rose, police toured flood-threatened districts of the New York region almost begging people to clear out. But tens of thousands of hurricane refuseniks resisted.
With America’s biggest city at a near standstill ahead of a predicted storm surge of up to 11 feet (3.5 meters), police went to several towns and districts with loud speakers and special buses trying to persuade people to move.
Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order for 375,000 people but the vast majority decided to brave out Sandy, which some experts said could be the most powerful storm in more than seven decades. Only 3,000 people, with 73 pets, had moved into the 76 emergency shelters opened for the storm, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Malcolm Smith, a Democratic member of the state senate, estimated that 80 percent of inhabitants of Rockaway Beach had decided to stay put. AFP