Sandy Leaves 40 Dead, 7.5 Million Without Power in US
Update: Oct 31
Washington/New York, Oct 31 (IANS): As Hurricane Sandy lost its ferocious punch and veered towards Canada leaving a trail of destruction up and down the US East Coast, President Barack Obama cautioned "The storm is not over yet." It left at least 40 dead and some 7.5 million people without power along the East Coast with New York's subway system paralysed by flooded tunnels and much of America's financial hub of Manhattan, in the dark.
"We're going to continue to push as hard as we can" to provide resources, said the president who has left the campaigning for the Tuesday's election to surrogates to deal with the situation from the White House.
"No bureaucracy, no red tape," was the message to his administration, he said during an afternoon visit Tuesday to the headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington after signing Major Disaster Declarations for worst hit New York and New Jersey.
The lifeline for millions of New Yorkers spanning 468 stations and over 600 miles of track, pulsing through four of New York City's five boroughs, was expected to remain silent for days and power could be out for a week, authorities warned.
More than 18,000 airline flights have been cancelled and according to one estimate Sandy would cost America $10 billion to $20 billion in economic damages.
"The New York City subway system is 108 years old," Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was quoted as saying by the New York Times. "It has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night."
Recovery efforts across 15 states and Washington city were starting to take hold Tuesday night, but thousands of people waited in shelters, not knowing whether their homes had survived, CNN said.
Atlantic City, a resort town famed for its beaches, boardwalk and blackjack, became an extension of the ocean as seaweed and flotsam swirled in the knee-deep water covering downtown streets.
While the East Coast was still grappling with the scope of the disaster, federal officials warned that Sandy was an ongoing concern with the potential to inflict more pain on inland states.
"The coastal impacts are certainly less today than they were last night, but the effects are not zero," National Hurricane Centre Director Rick Knabb told reporters in a conference call. "There are still some fairly strong winds out of the south."
The storm was centred about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh and packing 45-mph winds Tuesday evening, bringing flood warnings to Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania and blizzard warnings to high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains.
New York, Oct 30 (Agencies): The death toll from superstorm Sandy has risen to 30 in the mainland United States and Canada, and was expected to climb further as several people were still missing, officials said Tuesday. Officials in the states of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina all reported deaths from the massive storm system, while Toronto police said a Canadian woman was killed by flying debris.
Sandy had already killed at least 67 people -- including a US national in Puerto Rico -- as it swept through the Caribbean over the past few days, meaning the overall toll from the storm is now approaching 100.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 15 storm-related deaths at a news briefing, including at least 10 killed when Sandy struck New York City.
"Tragically we expect that number to go up," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned.
Three people died in New Jersey, including two parents who were killed when a falling tree crushed their car, sparing their children aged 11 and 14 who were inside with them, Governor Chris Christie said.
Christie added that rescue operations were still under way, with three separate teams deployed in Atlantic City, the coastal casino town near where the storm made landfall at 0000 GMT Tuesday.
Another four people were killed in Pennsylvania, including one killed from a falling tree and another when a house collapsed, emergency management officials told AFP.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy on Tuesday said two people had been killed in his state, including a firefighter, and two others were missing.
Elsewhere along the East Coast, a woman on board a replica of the HMS Bounty was recovered from the sea and later died at hospital. The captain was still missing Tuesday after the tall ship went down off the Carolinas.
A vehicle driver and his passenger were killed in the Virginia state capital of Richmond in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, city police said in a statement. The driver lost control of his car in heavy rain and slammed into a light pole, then struck a tree, city police said.
A woman in Maryland died after her vehicle hydroplaned into a tree, officials said.
And in West Virginia, a 48-year-old woman was killed when her car collided with a cement truck while driving through heavy snow caused by the storm, a local official said.
The National Hurricane Center said Sandy had weakened early Tuesday as it moved inland, but could still generate gale-force winds and flooding along the eastern seaboard.
US authorities had warned the threat to life and property was "unprecedented" and ordered hundreds of thousands of residents from New England to North Carolina to evacuate their homes and seek shelter.
Falling trees dragged down power cables, plunging millions of homes into darkness, while storm warnings cut rail links and marooned tens of thousands of travelers at airports across the region.
Disaster estimating firm Eqecat forecast that the massive storm would affect more than 60 million Americans, a fifth of the population, and cause up to $20 billion (15 billion euros) in damage.
The storm that made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening with hurricane force cut power to at least 7.4 million across the East and put the presidential campaign on hold just one week before Election Day.
New York was among the hardest hit, with its financial heart closed for a second day. The storm caused the worst damage in the 108-year history of the city's subway system, and there was no indication of when the largest US transit system would be rolling again.
But the full extent of the damage in New Jersey was being revealed as morning arrived. Emergency crews fanned out to rescue hundreds.
A hoarse-voiced Christie gave bleak news at a morning news conference: Seaside rail lines washed away. No safe place on the state's barrier islands for him to land. Parts of the coast still under water.
"It is beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said.
"It is a devastating sight right now."
Airlines canceled more than 12,000 flights. New York City's three major airports remained closed.
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in New York and Long Island, making federal funding available to residents of the area. He suspended campaigning again on Tuesday.
"This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Trading at the New York Stock Exchange was canceled again on Tuesday after the storm sent a nearly 14-foot (4.27-meter) surge of seawater, a record, coursing over its seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets.
Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring that "major disasters" existed in both states. One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured.
"It's total devastation down there, there are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean," said evacuee Peter Sandomeno, one of the owners of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.
"That's the worst storm I've ever seen, and I've been there for 11 years."
Obama will stay in Washington on Wednesday to oversee the response to Hurricane Sandy, canceling another day of campaigning roughly a week before Election Day, the White House said on Tuesday.
"The President will remain in Washington, DC on Wednesday to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy and ensure that all available federal resources continue to be provided to support ongoing state and local recovery efforts," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
"As a result, the President will not participate in the campaign events that had been scheduled in Ohio tomorrow."
The President had already skipped political events on Monday and Tuesday to be in Washington for the storm and its aftermath.
Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
Water poured into the subway system and tunnels that course under the city, raising concerns that the world's financial capital could be hobbled for days.
"Hitting at high tide, the strongest surge and the strongest winds all hit at the worst possible time," said Jeffrey Tongue, a meteorologist for the weather service in Brookhaven, New York.
Hurricane-force winds as high as 90 miles per hour (145 km per hour) were recorded, he said.
"Hopefully it's a once-in-a-lifetime storm," Tongue said.
Large sections of New York City were without power, and transportation in the metropolitan area was at a standstill.
"In 108 years our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement.
It could take anywhere from 14 hours to four days to get the water out of the flooded subway tunnels, the MTA said.
"The damage has been geographically very widespread" throughout the subway, bus and commuter train system, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.
More than 50 homes burn
The unprecedented flooding hampered efforts to fight a massive fire that destroyed more than 50 homes in Breezy Point, a private beach community on the Rockaway barrier island in the New York City borough of Queens, the Fire Department of New York said.
Two people in New York City reportedly died in the storm - a man in a house hit by a tree and a woman who stepped into an electrified puddle of water. Two other people were killed in suburban Westchester County, north of New York City, and two others were reported killed on suburban Long Island.
A motor vehicle death in Massachusetts was blamed in part on the bad weather. Two other people were killed in Maryland in storm-related incidents, state authorities said, and deaths also were reported in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, CNN said.
Toronto police also recorded one death - a woman hit by flying debris.
More than 7 million people in several US states were without electricity due to the storm, which crashed ashore late on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
With Obama and Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney keeping campaigning on hold for a second day instead of launching their final push for votes ahead of the November 6 election, the storm's onslaught added a new level of uncertainty to an already tense, tight race for the White House.
Obama, who has made every effort to show himself staying on top of the storm situation, faces political danger if the federal government fails to respond well in the storm's aftermath, as was the case with predecessor George W Bush's botched handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
But Obama also has a chance to look presidential in a national crisis.
New Jersey towns flooded
Three towns in New Jersey, just west of New York City, were inundated with up to 5 feet of water after a levee on the nearby Hackensack River was overtopped or breached, officials said. Rescuers were using boats to aid the marooned residents of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt.
In New York, a crane partially collapsed and dangled precariously from a 90-story luxury apartment building under construction in Midtown Manhattan.
Much of the city was deserted, as its subways, buses, commuter trains, bridges and airports were closed. Power outages darkened most of downtown Manhattan as well as Westchester County, affecting more than 650,000 customers, power company Consolidated Edison said.
"This is the largest storm-related outage in our history," said John Miksad, Con Ed's senior vice president for electric operations.
The previous record was the more than 200,000 customers hit with outages last year during Hurricane Irene, the utility said.
Neighborhoods along the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan were underwater, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood.
US stock markets closed on Monday for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Most areas in downtown Manhattan were without power on Monday morning. As the sun rose, most of the water in Manhattan's low-lying Battery Park City appeared to have receded.
A security guard at 7 World Trade Center, Gregory Baldwin, was catching some rest in his car after laboring overnight against floodwaters that engulfed a nearby office building.
"The water went inside up to here," he said, pointing to his chest.
"The water came shooting down from Battery Park with the gusting wind."
Power and back-up generators failed at New York University Hospital, forcing patients to be moved elsewhere for care.
In Lower Manhattan, firefighters used inflatable orange boats to rescue utility workers stranded for three hours by rising floodwaters inside a power substation.
One of the Con Ed workers pulled from the floodwater, Angelo Amato, said he was part of a crew who had offered to work through the storm.
"This is what happens when you volunteer," he said.
Drama in High Seas: 14 Sailors Rescued from HMS Bounty
Washington, Oct 30 (IANS): The US Coast Guard carried out a dramatic rescue of 14 sailors flung into the sea from their sinking three-masted replica of the historic ship HMS Bounty that had starred in several Hollywood adventure films.
A Coast Guard helicopter Monday morning plucked 14 of the 16 sailors from the churning sea roiled up by Hurricane Sandy, ABC News reported. But one sailor was listed as "unresponsive" and Coast Guard ships and planes were still searching for one more crew member of the tall ship.
The crew was abandoning ship during the night when the hurricane flung them into the sea.
The Bounty, the 180-ft replica of the ship featured in the film "Mutiny on the Bounty", was 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina, when the owner called saying she'd lost contact with the crew Sunday night.
A C130 plane spotted the wreckage Monday morning and Lt. Jane Pena co-piloted one of two rescue choppers to the site and found one sailor adrift by himself wearing an insulated suit called a Gumby suit.
Pena told ABC News he was spotted by the strobe lights attached to the suit. "We hoisted him up first thing," she said. "We then saw another strobe 1,000 yards away. It was the ship. It had sunk, but three masts were sticking out."
The C130 directed their helicopter to a life raft that had seven survivors in a covered raft. A video of the rescue shows a Coast Guard swimmer being lowered into the water and one-by-one attaching the sailors to the hoist line.
The ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Florida. The crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Centre and tried to go around the storm, according to the director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin.
The ship, built for the 1962 film version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando and also appeared in the blockbuster "Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest", was once owned by CNN founder Ted Turner, who acquired it in 1986 along with the rights to the MGM film library.
Its owner, Bob Hansen, told CNN affiliate KUSA, that it was heading away from the hurricane when the ship began taking on water.
"At that time it wasn't considered an emergency, even though they had several feet of water inside the boat," Hansen was quoted as saying.
"She's a very large ship, and that little bit of water really does not do anything to her. But somehow we lost power in our generator and in our main engines, and as a result, we could not pump any water out of the boat."
Waves battered the ship and "it just got to the point where she couldn't stay afloat anymore".
The original Bounty had an intriguing history.
The British Admiralty purchased a coal carrying merchant ship operating on the coast of England, named Bethia, renamed her Bounty, and re-commissioned her in 1787 for a special mission. Bounty was to sail halfway around the world to the tiny island of Tahiti, collecting sapling breadfruit trees and transport them to the West Indies.
To lead the mission, the Admiralty picked 33-year-old Lt. William Bligh, who had been the sailing master on HMS Resolution on Capt. Cook's last voyage of discovery. Though portrayed as an abusive tyrant by Hollywood, Bligh may be one of the greatest seamen who ever lived, reported tallshipbounty.org.
Three weeks out of Tahiti, enroute to the West Indies with the breadfruit plants, Master's Mate (Acting Lieutenant) Fletcher Christian, angered and humiliated over the continual abuse from Capt. Bligh took the ship.