At least 30 dead in Sandy's wake
At least 30 people are believed to have been killed by Hurricane Sandy in the US, bringing fatalities from the ‘Frankenstorm’ that started last week in the Caribbean to close to 100.
Sandy was demoted to a post-tropical storm overnight yesterday, but continued to blight the northeastern US with heavy rain, snow and wind today.
At least 10 of the 30 deaths occurred in New York City. Several, including an eight-year-old boy in Pennsylvania, were killed by falling trees or branches. A woman in Canada was killed by flying debris.
Some 7.5 million homes were left without electricity. “Our priority is life safety and life-sustaining,” the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Craig Fugate said. “Outside of heavy damage, power restoration tends to drive all the rest of the response.”
Hundreds of people who defied orders to evacuate low-lying areas remained stranded. “If u find urself surrounded by water, call 4 help if u can, then get 2 highest level of home,” said a Twitter post sent by Dan Malloy, the governor of Connecticut. “Hang a white sheet out a street-side window.”
New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie had criticised residents who refused to evacuate as “both stupid and selfish”. Nothing could be done for them overnight yesterday, but helicopters rescued hundreds of people from rooftops yesterday.
President Barack Obama declared New Jersey and New York major disaster areas. Mr Christie said the devastation of his state was “unprecedented” and that it would take months to recover. Whole towns were reported to be under more than a metre of water after a berm broke at Moonachie, New Jersey.
Manhattan residents described looking out of buildings that had become islands, surrounded by rivers that had been streets, and lakes that were once parking lots. Battery Park was washed over by a 4m tide. It will take up to four days to pump the water out of flooded subway tunnels, though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hoped to resume limited bus service late today.
Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the MTA, said that in its 108-year existence, the subway system “never faced a disaster as devastating.”
The NYU Langone Medical Centre had to evacuate 260 patients after its emergency power system failed. Nurses carried premature babies down nine flights of stairs.
Much of the Manhattan skyline was darkened after power substations were shut down to minimise flood damage. A massive, broken crane atop a luxury highrise on West 57th Street continued to teeter menacingly over mid-town, after it snapped in violent winds.
In the Queens neighbourhood of Breezy Point, 80 houses were burned to the ground after a six-alarm fire, possibly sparked by an electrical fault, jumped from building to building, whipped by gale force winds.
Runways at John F Kennedy and La Guardia airports were flooded, and there is no indication when flights will resume. The New York Stock Exchange said it will reopen tomorrow.
More than 100,000 people were reported to have lost power in Washington, and the federal government remained shut down for a second consecutive day.
The storm was expected to leave up to three feet of snow in the Appalachians, which saw blizzard conditions today, and 30cm of water on average over the entire region.
“The cylcone is centred over western Pennsylvania now,” Rick Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Centre said today. “It is still a very large system. There are still strong winds from the south on the mid-Atlantic and New England coastlines.”